Torrenting is an incredibly useful and increasingly popular way for you to get the large files you want. You may have heard about it from a friend or learned about it online and decided that you could use it, but you have no idea exactly where to begin.
If that is the case, you’ve come to the right place. This article is meant to set you on the path to torrenting both safely - which is paramount for reasons we shall get into shortly - and without too much hassle. You do not want to start without any knowledge because, as you may have heard, torrenting can be very risky for the uneducated. Please read the following tips to get started:
Pick a Good Client or Website
When you are ready to start acquiring files via torrenting, picking the right place to get those files is just as important as figuring out which files you want. If you pick a place that is not particularly “reputable,” you put yourself at a higher risk of having to deal with government interference—read: prosecution—or otherwise having your computer tampered with by hackers or malware.
The good news is that there are plenty of good websites and/or clients out there, and there is a community of people ready to help you decide what the best option is for you (a larger torrenting collective means a larger pool of files for the community). Check out this page for a few torrent site options to get you started.
Your primary goals should be to pick a site that has little government interference or surveillance, a large pool of files to pick from, a decent user base, a system where malware and other deceptive files are voted down or removed, and seems to be easy for you to use. Everyone has his own preference, so just try to pick one that works for you.
Use a Virtual Private Network
When you are torrenting, privacy is the number one thing that should concern you. You don’t want other users or organizations to know who you are, where you are, or what you are uploading or downloading. It is for this reason that you want to make sure to mask your IP address. This is where a Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes into play.
A VPN is a subscription-based service that connects your computer to a secure offsite—or host—server that effectively does your browsing for you. Since the VPN server has a different IP address, your IP address is masked, and your data is sent back to you over an encrypted connection that keeps you safe. This service often helps you get around geographical restrictions—a reason to torrent in the first place—and protects you from hackers who try to monitor you over a network. I should note that not all VPNs are equal when it comes to torrenting, so I would recommend checking out a few VPN reviews to learn about some of the best VPNs tailored to torrenting.
Use Security Software
There is a strong chance that you are already heeding the following advice (you absolutely should be). When you are dealing with something that has as many unknown elements as torrenting, you want to be sure that you are using the best security software available—preferably something that is not a cheap compromise you’ve made to save money.
There is no way around it. You will probably download something bad for your computer if you do a lot of torrenting, and as long as you are protected and your security suite can quarantine the issue—or immediately delete any problems that it comes across—you will be okay.
On another note, make sure you update your software (and your operating system) as often as possible, so you are not susceptible to the new threats that cybercriminals use to try to access your system. Any smart hacker won’t try old tricks that were fully protected against six months ago.
Pick What You Download Carefully
Just because a file contains something similar to the name of the file you were looking for, or because it has a screenshot attached, doesn’t mean it is safe. Some of the most popular content will be labeled as something else and you will need to ensure that the file type matches what you were expecting. Make certain that the community approves of the file through its chosen endorsement method. Caution should always be your first priority.
To sum it up: double check any incoming files for file size, the name of the file (it should be similar to—or the same as—the content you are downloading), and how often it has previously been downloaded (higher numbers are a good thing here).
Know the Legal Logistics of What You Are Doing
I would like to start right off by dispelling the myth that torrenting is in and of itself illegal. Torrenting is a tool, and that tool can be used for work, play or piracy. You may want to download copyrighted goods—and you have every right to that desire—but there are legal consequences if you get caught. This is why it is important to mask your identity with a VPN, as well as ensure that government (or other) surveillance is minimal. Since torrenting is so prevalent, it is impossible to prosecute everybody; however, governments and companies like to make examples of those who they do decide to go after.
It is for this reason that I would recommend that any prospective torrenter refrain from sharing anything at the very beginning. There are likely others out there who are already sharing what you might share, and they probably have a much better handle on it than you currently do. It might be good etiquette to share, but there will be time for that later down the road.
Think about what you are doing and whether you are prepared. Also, note that there are a great many works in the public domain, as well as other freely distributed content, that you should try torrenting first. Do this if you are apprehensive for any reason, but still want to get involved in torrenting without taking too many risks just yet.
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope that you find what you are looking for once you start torrenting yourself.
Thanks, Cassie Phillips for this helpful guest post.