Torrents remain the easiest way to share files. A firm understanding of torrents is an essential tool in any pirate’s toolkit, as you’ll have free access to a plethora of software, entertainment, and information that’s not available by any other means.
Major software companies like Microsoft and Adobe have led a charge toward software as a service (SaaS) business models in an attempt to stop piracy of their software, so it’s a good idea to stock up on whatever you can now.
Here’s how to get started with torrenting.
Download a BitTorrent Client
The most essential component of torrenting is a BitTorrent client. This is the platform used to download and upload torrent files. Here are a few BitTorrent clients to consider:
1. uTorrent (Linux/Mac/Windows/Android) – uTorrent used to be widely considered the best BitTorrent client, but that reputation has been tarnished over the past few years. Recent updates have included annoying ads (especially ones that play sound, even when minimized), bloatware, and bitcoin mining processes.
Still, uTorrent remains one of the most used BitTorrent clients, though I’d recommend against it if you’re getting started. When paired with the right proxy program, uTorrent ads are effectively blocked, though you’ll still need to worry about bloatware during updates.
uTorrent is free, but you have to pay for the premium version to remove ads and gain access to certain features. It works on all desktop OSs and is an easy-to-use client full of features, even without the premium version.
2. Deluge (Linux/Mac/Windows) – For those looking for the type of lightweight client that uTorrent used to be, Deluge is the answer. If you’re used to Mozilla’s Thunderbird and Firefox programs, then you won’t have any issues using this open-source BitTorrent platform to download torrents.
Deluge is one of the oldest BitTorrent clients out there and supports a host of third-party applications to do whatever you need. It’s great for people who run a network-attached server (NAS) and want remote control over a web interface.
Although it can take a bit of time to setup exactly how you want it, Deluge is one of the leanest and fastest BitTorrent clients on the market.
3. Flud (Android) – Thanks to desktop platforms like Remix OS, Android is becoming a popular OS for torrent downloads. Flud is a great app to utilize your Android device as a BitTorrent client, especially if you have unlimited data or prefer to download on public WiFi networks.
Torrent proxy clients do work with Flud, and both incoming and outgoing file encryption do as well. When searching for torrents from within the client, your default browser (probably Chrome) will be opened to display a Google search page.
There are occasional ads that can be disabled for $1.50, though you can also find an .apk online that will handle this problem for you.
Of course, there are other BitTorrent clients you can consider, but these three are enough to get you started. Once you have a BitTorrent client, it’s time to secure it. To do this, you need a proxy.
Install a VPN or Proxy Client
The problem with using a BitTorrent client is sooner or later, you’re likely to get caught, especially if downloading current software, movies, albums, and TV shows.
Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Recording Industry Association of America love running trackers to catch people downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones, movie screeners sent to critics, etc. If they catch you, your Internet service provider (ISP) will receive a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice. Most ISPs will ignore the first one and simply give you a warning, but after multiple notices are received, you’ll likely lose your internet service and be at risk of a lawsuit.
So, to protect yourself, you need to use either a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy service. Using either service works relatively the same, and with a VPN you’re still technically using a proxy. These services reroute your transmitted information through another IP address so that it can’t be traced to you (assuming they don’t keep logs) Here are a few anonymizing services to consider:
1. Private Internet Access ($6.95/mo) – PIA is one of the best VPN services around. Not only does it support P2P downloads, but it also includes a Socks5 proxy, encrypts WiFi data, and keeps no logs. What this means is that the data you transmit on any of your devices (up to 5) is fully hidden from even the network administrator.
Although most corporate networks block access to VPNs and you may have trouble accessing online streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, PIA will at the very least keep you safe from whoever in your household may want to snoop on your web traffic. You’ll also be protected from being tracked by corporations for ads, DMCA notices, and any other nefarious purposes.
PIA is the service of choice if you want the full security of a VPN that will protect not only your torrenting, but also your web browsing, email, chats, and more.
2. BTGuard ($6.95/mo) – BTGuard provides the same level of protection as PIA for its $9.95/mo premium VPN plan, though it also offers a $6.95/mo proxy-only plan that’s perfect for those only seeking to hide torrent traffic. Using a proxy instead of a VPN speeds up your downloads without compromising security.
Keep in mind if you’re really trying to be anonymous, you’ll need to restrict torrent searches to within your BitTorrent client. Though I’ve also never run into any legal issues for simply visiting a torrent site and downloading a torrent. The .torrent file itself isn’t proof that you’ve actually downloaded the intended file, just that you considered it.
BTGuard is a Socks5 proxy service and is easy to set up with any BitTorrent client.
3. TorGuard ($5.95/mo) – TorGuard offers a variety of security packages, starting with a $5.95/mo proxy that supports Socks5, SSL, SSH, and HTTP protocols. For $11.54/mo, you get both a proxy and VPN that fully secures all web traffic.
In most torrent sites like TorrentFreak, BTGuard and TorGuard are the most often compared services for anonymizing torrent clients. They’re like the Coke and Pepsi of proxies, and whichever one you choose is really a personal preference more than anything. Performance is pretty consistent between both of them.
There are dozens of other proxies and VPNs to consider, and they’re mostly similar. Experimentation is the best way to find the one that works for you. Once you have your BitTorrent client secured, you can begin downloading torrents.
Search for and Download Torrents
At the moment, the best site to search for torrents is KickAss Torrents. ThePirateBay was a long-standing front runner, but these days it lacks files from many of the most active uploaders.
The easiest way to search for torrents, however, is to search from within your torrent client, which will search “(file you’re looking for) torrent” in Google, or your default search engine.
When on a torrent site, do not click the direct download link, as this link will likely open porn sites, download malware on your computer, or worse. Instead, search for magnet links, which will download the .torrent file, launch your BitTorrent client, and begin downloading the file.
Once the file is finished downloading, you’ll find it in the default download folder you set up when installing the BitTorrent client.
Keep in mind that while downloading, you’ll also be uploading and it’s necessary to delete the torrent after the download is complete to stop uploading. Otherwise, you’ll continue uploading. It is, however, good etiquette to continue uploading for at least twice as long as you downloaded in order to support the community.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company, The Street, and Hardcore Droid.