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A Beginners Guide To Torrenting
06-06-2010, 03:37 PM
Post: #1
A Beginners Guide To Torrenting
Downloading

Let's be clear about some terminology first.

When you click on a link to start downloading something using BitTorrent, what you are doing is first downloading a little file with the extension ".torrent". You may not be aware that this is actually happening, but it is. Then there's the data downloaded as a result of using that little file, the actual stuff you wanted, which is a big file or a set of files in a directory.

I'll call the first "the torrent file" and the second "the data". I'll highlight these terms below to ensure you are clear about what I'm talking about.

A confusing point is sometimes people refer to both the torrent file and the data as "the torrent". It's also possible that some people don't know anything about the torrent file or what happens to it. They just click on the link to download something and things happen which causes the data to ultimately be on their computer; the existence of the torrent file is effectively hidden from them.

In the process of doing this download, something is running on your computer. This is a program (BitTorrent, ABC, Azureus, there are many more) - it's generically called "the client" (a term which I will also highlight here). It's the client's job to take the torrent file, which you got when you clicked to start the download, and from that get hold of the data and put it on your computer.

Ok so far?

When you download the data through the use of the torrent file, it gets saved somewhere on your disk. Sometimes there's a default directory that it gets put into, and sometimes you specify a directory. That depends on how you've set up the client, and whether it can have a default at all. I'll assume for now that you specify a directory.

As you are downloading, you are also uploading. At this stage, some trackers or sites define you as a leech, and you are leeching, but given that this transfer of the data is two-way, you'll also see the less emotive word peer used.


Seeding

The process of only uploading (i.e. once you have downloaded all the data) is called seeding and you are a seed. Once you've downloaded everything, you have become a seed without having to do anything.

Here's where you leave the client running, so that you may seed the data to others. This is why it's called file sharing.


Stopping

You can stop downloading or seeding simply by stopping the the client like you stop any other program. It may be that the client will allow you to stop torrents individually. However, sometimes a download or seeding stops due to circumstances outside your control, like when your computer crashes.

In any case, once you reboot (if necessary), the data that was being downloaded or seeded is still on your disk.


Restarting

It may be that the client will automatically restart all your torrents when you run it again, but not all do. I'll assume for now that it doesn't.

To reseed something after a restart if the client doesn't do it for you, just go back to the site where you got it originally, as if you hadn't downloaded anything at all yet, and click on the same link you clicked on to begin with. This will once more download the torrent file and start up the client to begin downloading the data.

If you have to explicitly specify a directory then do so again, and choose exactly the same location as last time. For example, if you first chose a Downloads directory, and now you find there's a new directory within that with the name of your torrent, choose the Downloads directory and not the torrent directory. If you specify a different directory, you will download the data again. If you specify the exact same directory, you will not download the data again.

In any case, assuming you get it right, the client will find that some or all of the data is already there, check it, and continue downloading from where it got to just before it was stopped. If it so happens that all of the data has been downloaded already, you will begin seeding straight away. Now you are reseeding. It's just seeding, but you're restarting the seeding you were doing before.

None of this involves "playing" or "opening" the data, nor clicking, selecting or right-menu-ing any icon on your desktop. That's something completely different.


Assumptions and Additional Details

I made some assumptions above. Here I'll address these.

If the client uses a default directory, i.e. you never have to say where the data is to go, you have less to do. It downloads the first time to the default directory, and after the restart, when you go to download using the same torrent file it will try to put the data in the default directory - and of course these two directories are the same. All that's different from the above is that you don't have to bother with finding where to put the data.

If the client remembers which torrent files you were using for downloading or seeding when it stopped, you should find that when you start the client up again without specifying any particular torrent file, it will load up all the torrent files from before. This just saves you the bother of having to rejoin the downloading or seeding process.

When you restart after a crash, you might find that some of the data has got corrupted in a file that was being accessed just as the crash happened. In this case, when you go to reseed, you might find that you in fact download a little bit, in the order of a megabyte or so, before it is complete again. Your download will start at 99% or so. This is okay, it happens sometimes, just let it do it.


And Finally, a Reminder

Once you've downloaded something, leave the client running for as long as you can so that you can seed what you have downloaded to others. That is, after all, how you got the data in the first place!
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