No matter how long you have been Torrenting, BitTorrent tools are evolving and getting better all the time. I have brought for you here a simple guide for getting the most out of what is changing forever how people acquire consumer entertainments.
The purpose of this simple guide is to educate people who may know the basics, but may have only just started to scratch the surface of what BitTorrent clients are truly capable of.
I will be using two of the most popular multi-platform BitTorrent clients; Vuze (previously known as Azureus) and µTorrent. Both of these applications work on two fundamentally different approaches: Vuze is packed with pretty much every feature you could imagine, including a search tool, social networking style file sharing among friends, a content guide and a whole lot more. µTorrent on the other hand is totally opposite: sleek, simple and straightforward.
Most of what I tell you here will be using Vuze’s newest features, but won’t ignore µTorrent either. Where applicable, I’ll highlight standalone applications that can bring some of Vuze’s integrated functions to the µTorrent platform. So let’s begin.
Setup Your Router’s NAT and Transfer Limits
This is the most important thing you can do to ensure the highest possible BitTorrent performance. And it’s also very often looked over by many Torrenters.
All the traffic on BitTorrent clients’ networks is piped through a single “port” on your network. But your routers block traffic, partially or fully, that doesn’t come through on all the “standard” ports (like port 80 for web traffic for example). What you want to do is make sure that your computer has a clear and open channel to all the data that you’ll be getting thought BitTorrent clients by setting up “port forwarding,” which informs your router which computer on the network it should forward the traffic to on certain ports instead of blocking it.
- Find out which TCP/UDP port your Torrent client is using by going to its preferences under the “connection” or “network” heading. Keep the default settings, but you can choose any number you want (read Vuze’s Good Port Choices article) and if you have more than one machine running BitTorrent on the same network, you will want unique port numbers for all of them.
- Open up your router’s admin page. This is done by going to your router’s IP address in a web browser (commonly 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.2.1). You may have to enter a user name and password sometimes. Search the default user name / password for your router’s model on Google if you can’t remember it. Users of Apple’s AirPort routers should use the AirPort Utility application.
- All router companies have a different terminology for what you are looking for. Some call it “port forwarding” while others call it “virtual servers” or “port mapping.” The terminology may be different, but it can usually be found listed under an “advanced setting” tab, if there is one. The site Portforwarding.com can help you locate yours if you’re having trouble.
- Once you’ve figured out where all this information goes, enter the port number from your client in step 1 for both UDP and TCP fields (enter the same port number for the “private” or “local” UDP/TCP fields). Also enter your current machine’s IP address (found in Network preferences on both OS X and Windows), and hit save.Note: If you are using a laptop and connecting and disconnecting from the network frequently, set up a static local IP address, so you don’t have to switch your router’s settings every time you Torrent.
- You are ready to go. Your BitTorrent client should have a built in network test in the preferences. Use that to make sure that your connection is clear.
- The final step involves setting a limit to your uploading speeds. BitTorrent simultaneously uploads to other peers while you are downloading. To ensure good download speeds, you much upload. You need to make sure that these uploads don’t hog your entire limited upload bandwidth, especially if you are on a cable connection. Cap your uploads to around 20 kbps to be safe. This is a general rule that will ensure faster downloads and will not clog your pipe either. If you are on FIOS, you can increase that a little, but play around to get the value that suits your connection.
Vuze has a tool that helps you auto-configure your speeds as well. It’s still worth experimenting with in the preferences.
Always Keep Your Ass Covered
Always be smart when you are downloading stuff that you probably should not. Listed here are some tools and tips to save your from viruses and subpoenas. But do keep in mind, there are no guarantees, so take responsibility for your actions and proceed at your own risk.
Avoiding seeding more than you have to
Yes. The RIAA, MPAA and NARC’s first targets are the heavy uploaders. I am not saying that the downloading part is any less illegal, but deleting your .torrent file once you are done downloading and stopping the seeding can raise your odds of staying out of trouble considerably higher.
Note: If you feel that morals dictate that you should continue uploading more than the amount you shared during the download, please do it with the knowledge that it increases the odds of you getting into trouble. Also, do seed any files that are being distributed via BitTorrent intentionally, like a Linux Distribution or Creative Commons licensed material. That won’t hurt you one bit.
You can justify your beliefs by arguing that Torrenting is mainstream enough to survive on thousands of people seeding very small amounts; amounts that are uploaded while they are downloading; or you could argue about the double paradoxes that arise when contemplating the moral side of consuming vis-a-vis sharing in the grayish black Torrent Market. But that is up to you. To each his own!
Choose Torrents with more seeds and good comments
A Torrent being seeded by hundreds of people has higher chances of being virus free and of good quality. Even though this seems to contradict point number 1, it’s YOUR ass that you are covering, not anyone else’s. So read the comments on torrent sites for any useful information. If a lot of people report problems with the downloaded file or an unknown password lock, skip it.
Use Bluetack IP filter to avoid Torrent criminals
Bluetack maintains a list of IP ranges of known spammers, undercover people like Media Defenders who might bust you, and virus seeders. To add the list to Vuze, go to Preferences > IP Filters and enter “http://www.bluetack.co.uk/config/level1.zip” into the auto fill field.
Look at private torrent sites
There are a number of good, private BitTorrent sites which lessen the risk of you getting hit with random malware or a federal subpoena. Though you may have to upload a certain amount to get and keep your membership.
When you can, watch on Hulu or buy from your favorite artist. Not to mention, the less massive your bandwidth usage, the less likely you are to go beyond your set monthly bandwidth.
Auto-Download Your Favorite Shows via RSS
For stuff like TV shows, you can set up Vuze to subscribe to your favorite series via RSS and auto-download them every week. µTorrent users can download TED, cross platform standalone application that does exactly the same thing.
- Search your favorite shows in Vuze. Check the orange RSS button under “Subscribe” once you have found the latest episode and added it to your list. You can also use the subscribe function to look at other files in your library and subscribe to those as well.
- If you see a lot of different options, choose HD where possible. If there’s an EZTV option, go for that. It is a reliable source of good torrents. Now, new episodes will appear automatically in your Subscriptions are and you can pull them down.
Stream to Your Game Console or Transcode for Your iPod/PMP/Phone with Vuze
The latest version of Vuze has added a very useful transcoding and streaming tool. It works perfectly to auto-detect a PS3 or an Xbox 360 on your network and streams your downloads to your TV, without any configurations.
- Enable the streaming add-on under the “Devices” option in the left pane.
- If your game console is turned on and connected to the network, it will automatically show up as a device. Just drag a file from your library to the icon of your console, and it will become available in the expected area (in the Video menu of the PS3’s XMB and My Video Library; as another PC on the Xbox 360).
- The tool also transcodes to iTunes in sizes that are optimized for iPods, iPhones and Apple TV, using the same process as described in step 2.
Now you can set up a dedicated torrent machine, either with a spare PC or a standalone NAS box with a built in Torrent client. Then you can use the web-only interfaces to access and manage your downloads from the road.