BitTorrent (often abbreviated to 'BT') is a protocol (a set of rules and description of how to do things) allowing you to download files quickly by allowing people downloading the file to upload (distribute) parts of it at the same time. BitTorrent is often used for distribution of very large files, very popular files and files available for free, as it is a lot cheaper, faster and more efficient to distribute files using BitTorrent than a regular download.
µTorrent is a BitTorrent client. A 'client' in this case is a computer program that follows the rules of a protocol. For example, HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) is the protocol used to download web pages and other content - like this page - and your HTTP client (or browser) is the program you use to get those web pages. Some popular browsers include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. To an extent, they all work the same way because they follow the same set of rules.
Just as there are multiple HTTP clients, there are multiple BitTorrent clients, and µTorrent is one such BT client.
How do I download files using BitTorrent?
Just like you need a URL like 'www.google.com' to go to a web site and download content, you need a 'torrent file', a small file that tells the BitTorrent client the necessary info to download the content you want. This is generally obtained from a torrent website. Many websites offer torrents as one method of downloading files. For example, OpenOffice.org, a free alternative to Microsoft Office, can be downloaded using BitTorrent. Other sites, like legaltorrents.com, offer torrents of all kinds of things - these sites are just repositories of torrents and usually don't actually create any of the content available. They're known as indexes or trackers - there is a subtle difference between the two. (The Wikipedia article on BitTorrent trackers explains the difference.)
Once you've obtained the torrent file from wherever, you simply need to import it into µTorrent. There are several ways of doing this.
- Click File then Add Torrent in µTorrent (or press CTRL+O) and locate the torrent file.
- Double-click the torrent file. (Only works if you've associated .torrent files with µTorrent - µTorrent asks you if it should do this the first time you run it. If you clicked 'No', you can do this by going to Options, then Preferences in µTorrent, then clicking Associate with .torrent files under Windows Integration.)
- (advanced) Click File then Add Torrent from URL in µTorrent (or press CTRL+U), and enter a URL from which the .torrent file can be obtained.
But before you start downloading, make sure you've followed the µTorrent Setup Guide. It doesn't take long and will help ensure that your torrent experience is faster and more consistent.
µTorrent finished downloading, but now it says it's Seeding. What does that mean?
Seeding is where you leave your BitTorrent client open after you've finished your download to help distribute it (you distribute the file while downloading, but it's even more helpful if you continue to distribute the full file even after you have finished downloading). Chances are that most of the data you got was from seeds, so help give back to the community! It doesn't require much - µTorrent will continue seeding until the torrent is removed (right click the torrent, then hit Remove). Proper practice is to seed until the ratio of upload:download is at least 1.00.
But I don't want to download software, I want to download other files!
Most people use search engines, such as Google, and add the term "torrent" to their search. BitTorrent can be used to deliver any type of file. BitTorrent is purely a content distribution method and (just like a web browser) does not incorporate any technology to differentiate between content that is legitimately shared and content that is pirated. Remember, anybody can see your IP address when using peer to peer clients (like µTorrent), which identifies your computer on the internet. Take care to follow your country's laws concerning copyrighted content.
How do I know that someone isn't sending out viruses on BitTorrent?
In short, you don't. You should treat something downloaded with BitTorrent just like any file downloaded from the internet - that is, if you don't trust the source of the file, then you should use caution when opening it. If the torrent site you obtained it from offers comments, be sure to read those first. But regardless of the comments, running a virus scan on the downloaded files is usually a good idea. µTorrent guarantees that the content you download is not altered from when the torrent was originally created, but if the source files used to create the torrent were already infected, this will provide no protection!
Where can I find out more?
There is a lot of BitTorrent reference information available on the internet, and searching for "bittorrent" on Google is a good start. The following sites are particularly useful:
- Brian's BitTorrent FAQ and Guide - a great resource to all things BitTorrent, with far more info than this page, though some of it is a bit technical.
- µTorrent FAQ - Provides a list of common questions and answers and solutions to a number of common problems.
- µTorrent manual - The main documentation for µTorrent. Explains everything related to the client. Press F1 while viewing the µTorrent window, or go to Help -> µTorrent Help.
- The BitTorrent specification - Technical information on the way BitTorrent works.