Streaming is the popular way to access movies, music, and other digital files these days. But sometimes you want a local file. Perhaps you’re going somewhere without Internet service or simply want to save money by avoiding data overages.
Torrenting is a popular way to transfer files. This peer-to-peer protocol is based on the BitTorrent platform created in 2004. It predates blockchain technologies like cryptocurrencies and the Tor Browser (although Tor was in development a decade earlier).
To use torrents, you’ll need a BitTorrent client, a torrent file, and preferably a VPN. A secure VPN is especially necessary when downloading copyrighted material. Torrents have long been associated with piracy, and both government regulators and TV, movie, music, and app development studios actively track and litigate transfers of their intellectual property via the DMCA.
Because it’s decentralized, BitTorrent is difficult to take down. The websites hosting torrent files have a much harder path, however. The most popular torrent sites are often taken down, so this list could be obsolete within a month.
In addition, many of these sites aren’t run by the original groups. They’re simply using brand popularity to recreate sites, gaining traffic from the original that was shut down.
However, as January 20, 2018, the following torrent sites are still up and running.
Founded in 2003, The Pirate Bay is one of the oldest torrent sites on the Internet. It’s also the largest and most popular. Throughout the years, it has been shut down multiple times, is banned by many ISPs, and constantly changes its domain. Currently, it’s running on its original .org domain, but that could change at any given moment.
All three founders (Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, and Gottfrid Svartholm) were found guilty of copyright infringement in Sweden in April 2009. For every domain that’s shut down, however, several mirrors consistently pop up to take its place. The Pirate Bay has never been down for longer than a month before reappearing.
Founded in 2007, 1337X has always been a popular torrent site, but it’s undergone major improvements in recent years. It’s banned from Google search results, but still manages to be the 327th most popular website on the Internet, according to Alexa site rankings.
If you do search 1337x on Google, you’ll be taken to a completely different site, that’s also high ranking on Alexa. However, the fake 1337x doesn’t have the sleek, secure interface of the original. Be sure to only visit the direct link to avoid malware and other problems.
IsoHunt originated in 2003 as a database for IRC files, which was a popular way to transfer files prior to torrents. In the pre-torrent days, it as a popular place to find any files you needed. Changing with the times, it began indexing torrent files around 2006.
IsoHunt is more of a meta search engine and doesn’t host the torrent files itself. Instead, it indexes torrents hosted on other sites and redirects you to those, making it a useful torrent search engine, especially for obscure files.
The original KAT was founded in 2008 and became very popular every time The Pirate Bay was shut down. This popularity ended up being a disadvantage, as the site soon found itself the target of the U.S. government. The site was seized in July 2016, and Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland.
Despite this pressure, former staff members revived the community with a similar-looking functional website by December 2016. It’s still a functional torrent directory, and you can be sure it’ll rise up the ranks again once The Pirate Bay is inevitably shut down next.
EZTV was started as a TV torrent distribution group in May 2005. It was a loose coalition of volunteers who believed in sharing high-quality TV torrent files. If you saw EZTV on a file, you knew you were getting the right show and episode, whereas fake files often appear on torrent networks.
In 2015, however, a scam group began posing as EZTV and initiated a hostile takeover of the original group. EZTV releases aren’t indexed by many torrent sites because of this, but the new group does still release TV torrents.
Much like isoHunt, Torrentz.eu was founded as a meta search engine in 2003. Even though it didn’t officially index the files, it often found itself fighting DMCA takedowns and other court orders from a variety of governments.
The official site was shut down on August 5, 2016, but an unofficial cloned version quickly popped up with an index of over 60 million torrent files.
TorrentDownloads is a relative newcomer to the torrent space, but it’s still a stable and secure place to search for torrents. It has a simple and intuitive interface, although traffic has been plummeting since October 2017.
This site is straightforward and has a large database of indexed torrents, so it’s very likely to have the file you’re looking for.
LimeTorrents is reminiscent of LimeWire, the P2P client shut down in 2010. It’s very similar to KAT in appearance and has a large index of high-quality torrents. Files are uploaded daily, and users can find nearly any popular file they’re searching for.
RARBG was founded in 2008 and quickly found a fan base among video pirates. It’s not uncommon to find TV and movie torrents with the RARBG label throughout torrent sites. They’re known to be high quality, fast, and legitimate files.
Over 300,000 people use the site daily, making it one of the most-visited torrent sites on the Internet. It’s currently ranked 314 globally on Alexa, despite a decrease in traffic over the past few months.
The original ExtraTorrent.cc was launched in 2006 and has been shut down as of May 2017, although there is still a mirror site viewable. What’s up in its place is a fan-made version that is more difficult to use and will likely infect your computer with a virus. Still, if you’re in a pinch, it may be worth checking out.