What Is A Torrent File? Is It Illegal To Download Torrents?

torrent file
Illustration: Fossbytes / Priye Rai

A torrent file is a special file format that stores information about files and folders to be distributed using the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. This type of file is small (usually in KBs) and ends with the extension “.torrent” at the end.

Torrents don’t contain the file data itself; they carry details such as file name, file size, tracker list, etc. To work successfully, these torrent files need a BitTorrent client, such as BitTorrent, BitTorrent, BitTorrent, and uTorrent.

What is a torrent file used for?

Normally, hosting a file on the internet requires a high-end server that can take the heavy load of multiple download requests concurrently. These servers are expensive and need significant effort in terms of maintenance. But, torrent files make file-hosting more convenient by striking off the need for a sophisticated server.

Torrent file-sharing involves a system downloading small fragments of a file from multiple other systems that already have it. These systems that facilitate the download process are called “peers.” Basically, peers fill in for the lack of a powerful central server to make downloads faster and stable.

Due to these advantages, many developers and consumers often opt for torrents for large-sized downloads. For instance, a number of Linux distros are up online as torrent downloads.

How does torrent downloading work?

When you run a torrent file using a BitTorrent client, your system establishes a connection with the main server (if available) and a number of peers (mostly personal computers). An ad-hoc server called a “tracker” helps the various systems communicate with each other.

In torrenting, the data is divided into numerous “pieces” downloaded from multiple peers and then assembled to represent the original data. The aforementioned tracker lets the system that made the download request determine the available peers to share data pieces.

Is it illegal to download torrents?

While it isn’t illegal to download torrents per se, it is no secret that torrents are widely used to share pirated content. Obviously, hosting unauthorized content via torrent file-sharing is a cybercrime almost everywhere globally. While downloading the same might not bring legal repercussions in most cases, it is still unethical.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

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