What Is Torrenting? How Do Torrents Work? Is It Illegal or Not?

Torrenting has gained lots of popularity in recent years, along with its fair share of threats as well.

Torrenters download files hosted globally through P2P (or peer-to-peer) technology.

Some interesting facts about torrenting:
  • Approximately 3.35% of total internet traffic is handled through BitTorrent, bringing over 100 million active monthly users.
  • Torrent clients are used to download files containing content such as movies, books, songs and games.

The most commonly asked questions about torrenting will be covered extensively in this piece.

Torrenting can put you at risk in the following ways:

  • Malware infection
  • Exploit system vulnerabilities
  • Data safety
  • Legal issues
However, you can avoid these threats by using a good VPN. A VPN service will secure your connection to the P2P file-sharing network you use to download/share torrent files.

How To Torrent Safely

  1. Subscribe to NordVPN here.
  2. Download and install the VPN client on your device.
  3. Enter your login credentials.
  4. Select the nearest ‘P2P VPN Server.’
  5. Click the ‘Connect’ button.

This topic is covered extensively below if you’re new to the world of torrenting. Continue reading for more information.

What Is Torrenting? (Torrent Definition)

Torrenting is a kind of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing technology where a number of users can connect and share their files rather than being dependent on one single website or source for getting the content they need. Each peer acts as a mini-server, which significantly reduces the network load.

A user can not only download the file from the direct source but also from other users of the same torrent, facilitating a smoother transfer among users.

It’s easy to search for a file of your choice on the internet and download it through a torrent. However, the experience might improve to a surprising extent once users get to know the technology behind torrenting.

So, what is torrenting? It’s the process of a user installing a torrent client on their computer, accessing files through a torrent site, and then downloading torrented movies, TV shows, games or other types of content via the torrent client. They can also share those files with other users on the network.

How Torrenting Works

To understand the peer-to-peer file-sharing process (or torrenting), it’s essential to know a few terms.

  • Peers: All users involved in sharing files through torrent P2P sharing. They are said to be peers as long as they keep sharing files on the torrenting network.
  • Seeders: A user who is downloading a file from a torrent and simultaneously uploading it to be used by other users.
  • Indexers: Websites that work as a search engine for the files and content to be downloaded through a torrent. Some famous indexers include The Pirate Bay, ExtraTorrent or Torrentz, which generate the most amount of torrenting traffic.
  • Trackers: Servers that act as bridges between the peers. They direct the packets from user to user and help find peers on the network for a particular download.
  • Swarms: A number of peers downloading or uploading the same downloadable files.
  • Leechers: The peers who download a torrent file but restrict uploading from their server or stop the torrent as soon as their file is downloaded to prevent the upload. Their intention is not to help other peers with downloading.
  • BitTorrent Client: One of the main requirements for torrenting is the presence of a client. Usually, uTorrent or Deluge enables the process by combining the fragments from many seeds, assembling them and managing the download.

Why Do People Use Torrents?

Direct downloading and torrenting are two options for downloading files on the internet.

When given the option of downloading a file from the source, why do people prefer torrenting over the regular download option? Here are a few reasons:

  • One of the most prominent reasons for using torrenting is that it’s free. Downloading files begins with no charge.
  • The download server will never be down. As the torrent file is not fully uploaded on a single server, there will always be other servers supporting the download process.
  • Managing downloads is much easier with torrents as it can pause and resume the process.
  • A faster download is possible through torrents that are better seeded.
  • Torrents also enable the downloading of several files at once, which is convenient for users.

How To Get Started Torrenting

Step 1: Download a Torrent Client

The most common clients used are uTorrent and BitTorrent, which are free and easy to use.

utorrent web

These clients facilitate file sharing by connecting to peers and managing the upload/download process.

Step 2: Search for a Torrent to Download

After downloading a torrent client, the next step is to look for the file you want to download on the torrent sites (indexers). Upon finding the file you want, make sure it has many genuine seeders and good reviews on the website. This helps you find out if the file carries viruses that might corrupt it.

searching for torrent on archive org

Step 3: Download the Torrent File

The downloadable file can be download either by clicking the download button or the magnet icon next to it. The magnet button lets you download it without having to download the ‘.torrent’ file.

torrent file screenshot

Step 4: Add the Downloadable File To Your Client

Once the .torrent file is downloaded, the next step is to open the file in the torrent client. Add the .torrent file to the client and select the desired destination for your to-be downloaded file. This will start the downloading process via the client.

adding torrent file to client

uTorrent allows you to pause or resume the download, as well as add or delete torrents. It displays information about the number of peers you’re connected to, the seeders of the file, and the upload and download speed. Note that speeds may depend on the strength of your internet connection.

Step 5: Important Finishing Touches

When you’ve followed step 4 correctly, your client will finish up the file you wanted downloaded in due time. In the meantime, you can do something else. After the downloading process is complete, click on the name of the file twice if you’re on the Windows platform, then open the file and click on the content you want to watch from within the folder.

When you’ve finished downloading your file, you should leave your torrenting client running for a few hours or so. You should do this if you want to become a contributing member of the torrenting community.

Otherwise, you’ll be labeled as a leecher (someone downloads files regularly but never returns the favor by seeding the file for a few hours). Once this happens, depending on the network you are on, you may get limited speeds.

Sometimes, private trackers can outright ban you from downloading anything if they see that you don’t have a sufficient downloads/uploads ratio.

The vast majority want a 1:1 ratio, meaning that you should upload the file(s) that you have downloaded at least once. Other private and public trackers want you to keep your uploads/downloads ratio to 3, and that means you have to upload three times the data you have downloaded from a given tracker.

These rules and regulations are not there to annoy or harm users. In fact, they are of vital importance if the torrenting community is to survive in the future. So, always make sure that you give back at least the amount you have taken from the community.

When this process is done, you need to remove the downloaded file from your torrenting client.


This last step is an important security precaution you can take to protect your data and privacy.

What if your VPN connection drops or your antivirus stops working? If you haven’t stopped seeding the file you downloaded, then other peers would continue to transfer data from your computer. This can leave your IP address exposed and someone can steal your personal information if they have the right tools and the technical knowledge to do so.

Now, this might not happen every time you neglect to use a VPN with a torrenting client, but you don’t want to take the change of losing your personal data to a hacker or some other malicious entity. So, be sure to stop uploading any data to your torrenting network once you have achieved the appropriate upload/download ratio.

Of course, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of removing a file that you downloaded from your torrenting client, then you can let it run while making sure you have an active VPN connection.

Is uTorrent Safe?

Yes, it is safe. The platform, along with BitTorrent, is free from all malware and viruses.

That said, there is no way to guarantee that the content you download is 100% safe and malware-free. Sticking to reputable torrenting sites, using reputable torrent clients and avoiding copyrighted material are all good measures to take.


Some files may contain malware-ridden content that can damage your computer.

Torrenting clients also share your device information and IP address to other peers, and your personal information can be easily tracked down by copyright trolls and internet service providers. More on that further in this guide.

Is Torrenting Illegal?

There’s always been a debate on whether torrenting is legal or illegal. To understand this, it’s important to know that torrenting is a way of file sharing among users and the act of torrenting may not be considered illegal.

Rather, the legal aspect of torrenting depends on the file that is being downloaded.

If the file (and the content therein) is not restricted or copyrighted, then torrenting it is legal. However, the act of downloading and sharing unsanctioned and copyrighted material is illegal. So, sharing such content has its consequences.

Copyright trolls have been known to come after torrent users for sharing copyrighted material that has been licensed with rights reserved to the work’s creator. Copyright trolls are individuals or groups who work on behalf of copyright-holders/creators to sue users who distribute that copyrighted material without their permission or license. Users could face litigation for copyright infringement.

This is important:

We recommend reviewing the copyright laws in your state or country to determine what’s legal and what’s not. And as always, avoid torrent sites that offer nothing but copyrighted material to peer (P2P) users.

Staying Safe While Torrenting

It’s essential to do torrenting through a private network where you can avoid copyright trolls and any legal risks.

1. Use a VPN

A VPN (short for Virtual Private Network) is one of the best tools you can use to protect your personal details (such as your name, email, location, etc.) and metadata while downloading/sharing torrents. It hides your real IP address and changes it to another IP, thereby making it impossible for copyright trolls and ISPs to track you down.

Good VPNs give users lots of options when it comes to choosing IP addresses. If a VPN has a large pool of servers to choose from, users can change their IP address to any country they want. With modern encryption technology, using a VPN has become as easy as visiting torrent sites and starting a torrent download. Read about the best VPNs available here.


Another benefit of using a VPN is that it encrypts your internet traffic so you can’t be tracked down by hackers or other torrenting users who are on the same network as you are.

A VPN shields all your web activities and thus provides a secure and private internet experience, even when you aren’t torrenting. Most VPNs also come with a “kill switch” that automatically shuts off your internet connection if you get disconnected from the VPN server you’re on. This way, your data and real IP address won’t be leaked once you’re no longer connected to the server.

2. Avoid Downloading Illegal Content

To avoid any legal consequences while torrenting, it’s best to avoid downloading copyrighted files and materials. Though they may be available on a torrent site, copyrighted content may not be shared without permission. You may be subjected to legal charges if you break these rules. Therefore, it’s always better to keep yourself away from downloading such content.

No matter what you do, always use a VPN to download torrents anonymously and avoid getting caught by legal authorities.

3. Use Private Trackers

It is very important that you give some thought to where you’re downloading torrents from. Hackers and copyright trolls use trackers to interfere with your downloads and gain access to your information.

If you’re using a public tracker, use a renowned one with lesser risks attached. Or you could register for a good private tracker. The r/trackers subreddit is a decent resource for finding information about public and private trackers.

4. Use An Antivirus Program

In addition to a VPN service, it’s very important that you also use an antivirus program to protect yourself from any malware, ransomware or spyware that may make its way onto your computer through a downloaded file.

Using antivirus software is one of the best things you can do to preserve your online privacy while torrenting.

Also, keep in mind that when you’re using a torrenting client to get a file, your IP address is essentially visible to all users who have connected to the same server. If you aren’t using a VPN and an antivirus program, then such a setup is not ideal for privacy and security.


Above, we covered the background, terms, techniques and privacy tips you need to understand torrenting. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

Torrenting Definition

A torrent is a file that can contain movies, TV shows, games, audio or video content, or any other type of digital content. You can access these files on torrent sites and get them by using a torrent client.

What’s the Best Torrenting Program?
The best torrenting software available today is uTorrent and BitTorrent. Both clients are offered for free.
Is BitTorrent Safe?
Yes, but the individual torrent files stored and shared on BitTorrent’s network may contain malware or copyrighted content. The same applies to uTorrent.
Can You Download Torrents Anonymously?
If you use a VPN service, you can remain anonymous while torrenting. VPNs hide your IP address and activity from being revealed to your internet service provider (or ISP).

VPNs provide users with unique IP addresses from servers located in countries around the world. You can always choose IP addresses in a location where torrenting laws are lax or nonexistent.


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