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In order to download a file from a .torrent, you need a BitTorrent client. There are many choices. Below is a list of recommended clients.
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BitTorrent is a protocol used for transferring large files or collections of files across a distributed network. Instead of file sharing services, which transfer whole files directly from one user to another, bittorrents break up the file into smaller chunks and create a map to each of the pieces.
The .torrent file is the small file that tells a client how to put it all back together. This process eases the bandwidth problems associated with hosting large files by obfuscating the transfer to a virtual cloud of sources. As a result, sites can host a tremendous library of .torrent files and index all of the content the torrents contain without suffering from the technological (and sometimes legal) ramifications of such a massive set of data.
The only problem with the bittorrent technology is that it requires additional software. Where a direct file transfer can take place all within a single program (i.e. downloading a file in a browser or searching for it within a peer to peer file sharing service), most bittorrent clients do not include a method for locating .torrent files and most browsers do not include a method for transferring over the bittorrent protocol.
There are a number of choices for bittorrent clients. Which is right for you depends on the availability of system resources, experience with file transfer protocols, and the features you desire.
uTorrent is the most popular cross-platform bittorrent client and the second most popular Peer to Peer program overall. It is maintained by BitTorrent, Inc - the company founded by Bram Cohen, the creator of the protocol, but was originally developed by Ludvig Strigeus - a prolific Swedish developer. uTorrent's popularity is largely due to the fact that it is the client with the smallest amount of system resource overhead and the lowest minimum requirements.
Between it's operating system compatibility and low resource requirements, uTorrent can run on almost any computer, while still supporting a host of useful features. It supports Peer Exchange with most other major clients, a configurable disk caching system, an embedded tracker, and support for 52 languages.
uTorrent gets consistently good reviews from independent software rating services and individual users alike. It runs smoothly and has unmatched stability on most platforms. Additionally, the intrusion of advertising is limited to some server-side ads that appear on the results page for the built-in search utility.
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Azureus, has always been a pretty heavyweight client. Requiring the Java runtime costs the user a bigger chunk of system resources, but increases performance, stability, and expandability for the platform. The Azureus engine was originally developed as a standalone bittorrent client, but was later built into its replacement, Vuze.
Vuze is the most feature-heavy client of all the common bittorrent applications. It sports multiple modes for different user experience levels, adopting a simple, stripped down interface in beginner mode and adding more options for the intermediate and advanced modes. In addition, Vuze is the only bittorrent client that also functions as a social networking utility and content network.
On the Vuze network, users can upload original content in DVD and HD quality. This includes original torrents as well as user generated videos. With original content, Vuze also allows users to monetize the generated traffic. It is also one of the few bittorrent programs that has an embedded media player.
Besides all of the unique networking and media features, Vuze supports a standard feature set for file transfers, including DHT tracking, superseeding, proxy support, comments and quality feedback, and external device synchronization. While Vuze is a very powerful program for a wide variety of tasks, for casual use, most users opt for a lighter weight application that runs a little more under the radar.
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Limewire is more of a file sharing service than a bittorrent client. It allows users to directly share files over the Gnutella file sharing network. It does, however, in newer versions, contain minimal bittorrent support. Like Vuze, it runs on the Java Runtime Environment and can be run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The first to support firewall to firewall file transfers in 2004, the application gained a lot of support before the advent of bittorrent distributed transfers.
Limewire is probably the most maligned of the post-Napster peer to peer file sharing services for a number of reasons. Complaints range from malware and spyware problems to the widespread dissemination of trojans (both Mac and PC) to the accidental sharing of private user data.
Last year, PC Pro magazine conducted a survey of 123 randomly selected shared files and found that around 30% of them contained some form of malware. More recently, a trojan exploiting Apple Remote Desktop was circulated through files available on the network.
The risks associated with Limewire, at this point, are just those that are associated with all peer to peer file sharing services. Any time you directly transfer a file from an anonymous or unknown source, you expose yourself to a number of security risks. With the increased availability of torrents, the risks of peer to peer sharing are generally considered to be excessive. Limewire's support for bittorrent transfers, however, is limited to three uploads and three downloads at a given time, so it is generally associated with pure peer to peer sharing.
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BitComet is actually a hybrid program that is capable of transferring files over multiple file transfer protocols. It can download files over HTTP, FTP, as well as bittorrent. It also supports integration with Internet Explorer and Firefox. This allows the user to search for bittorrents from within the program itself.
Some older versions of BitComet contained advertisements, which have since been removed, and it has never been reported to contain any harmful spyware. Other client authors, however, have accused BitComet of abusing superseeding to harm peer seeders. For this reason, some clients, including BitTornado, the application created by the inventor of superseeding, have banned connections from BitComet.
Allegations aside, most users and protocol experts appreciate the innovative nature and small resource footprint of BitComet. It runs with ease and stability, while still offering a competitive set of features for all levels of users.
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Transmission is a super lightweight client written originally for Mac OS X, but later ported to Linux. It has since been adopted as the default bittorrent client for the top Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Mint, Mandriva, and Fedora.
Transmission boasts the most simple, elegant user interface of any bittorrent client. It has a pleasing visual aesthetic that blends well with OS X and the minimal styles of most Linux environments. Besides the standard file transfer related features, Transmission also supports dock and Growl notifications, torrent file creation, and Quick Look technology - one of the flagship features introduced on OS X 10.5 (Leopard) that allows for advanced previewing of files - which enables the user to view partially downloaded files to ensure their quality before downloading the entire collection.
This program is stable, simple, elegant, and fast, but not available on Windows. Among Mac users,though, it is far and away the most popular bittorrent client, according to hosting sites such as MacUpdater and VersionTracker.
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