What Are Magnet Links, And How Do I Use Them?

Soon, popular torrent site The Pirate Bay will no longer host torrent files. Instead, it will only offer magnet links. Magnet what now? You may have seen the term "magnet link" before, but if you haven't used one, here's the lowdown on what this change means for you as a BitTorrent user.

How Magnet Links Are Different From Torrent Files

When you download a torrent file, you're essentially downloading a small file that contains information on the larger files you want to download. The torrent file tells your torrent client the names of the files being shared, a URL for the tracker and more. Your torrent client then calculates a hash code, which is a unique code that only that torrent has — kind of like an ISBN or catalogue number. From there, it can use that code to find others uploading those files, so you can download from them.

A magnet link does away with the middleman. A magnet link is essentially a hyperlink containing the hash code for that torrent, which your torrent client can immediately use to start finding people sharing those files. Magnet links don't require a tracker (since it uses DHT, which you can read more about here), nor does it require you to download a separate file before starting the download, which is convenient.

How To Use Magnet Links

Magnet links are dead simple to use. If you head to the Pirate Bay now, you'll notice that magnet links are now the default, with the "Get Torrent File" link in parentheses next to it (a link which will disappear in a month or so). Just click on the magnet link and your browser should automatically open up your default BitTorrent client and start downloading. It's that easy.

What This Ultimately Means For You

The short answer is nothing. In fact, it could mean that downloading torrents takes one or two fewer clicks, as all you have to do is click on the link to start the download. When magnet links first came out, not all torrent clients supported them, but now you can use magnet links with just about any semi-popular torrent client out there — including our favourites uTorrent, Transmission and Deluge, among others, so you shouldn't notice a problem with that.

The main reason torrent sites are moving toward magnet links — apart from convenience to the user — is that these links (probably) free torrent sites like The Pirate Bay from the same legal troubles that torrent files cause; since The Pirate Bay isn't hosting files that link to copyrighted content, it's more difficult to claim the site is directly enabling the downloading of copyrighted material.

Whether this semantic leap actually protects torrent sites remains to be seen, but for now, you can sleep soundly knowing that the sites will stick around for awhile longer and that your torrents will take one less click to get started. Of course, if you're using a public site like The Pirate Bay, we highly recommend you set up a proxy and encryption service like BTGuard to protect your downloading from prying eyes. If you want to read more about magnet links, check out the Wikipedia page on the subject.


Comments

    Now I need a way to send magnets links to my remote server... I had it all sorted out too :D

    I've currently got a set up so uTorrent is looking in my dropbox for any .torrent files, and it'll automatically add them and start downloading.

    Is there any way to replicate this with a mirror?

      Is there any way to replicate this with a magnet, even?

    You can create windows shortcuts that contain magnet links by just pasting the address in. Maybe you could have an AutoHotkey/AutoIT script that launches them when they appear in a folder.

    One more challenge for the already challenged remote community but on the other hand I've been using magnet links for a while now and they're great

    is there anyway to use magnet links on a netgear nas running a bittorrent client, i've just been copying/pasting the location of the .torrent file into it to get stuff so far

    Considering how many torrents are out there, wouldn't we be getting close to a hashing collision?

      No but that's not to say it isn't possible, but it's very rare. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_collision

      Every digital can create a hash, which is automatically generated depending on the algorithm you use. If you open up a text file, have nothing in it, it will have one hash, you write the letter a, it will be completely different, write the letter b, it will be completely different again.

      It's also used in security to see if the file has been modified. If it has, it would create a different hash value. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watermark_(data_file) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptographic_hash_function

    When I click on the Magnet Link nothing happens. It use to until PB changed about a month ago. Any suggestions? I use uTorrent and it is updated.

      I recon, U download "Transmission-QT v2.72" and install it. Hope it will solve Ur problem.

    I'm trying to download the Family Stone but when I click on the "Get This Torrent" Link nothing happens at all. I tried with other things I wanted to download and the same thing happens. Is my computer blocking the link or what? I dont recieve any notifications or anything that the computer is blocking it. Nothing happens at all when I click on it.

      Oh wait never mind I just needed my UTorrent Program open at the same time :P

    when I click on magnet link to download,I get the following errors/display:

    1.First pop up window
    There was a problem sending the command to the program
    2.second pop up widow after first is closed:
    Unable to open this helper application for
    --b4833fec571.(.some other letters and numbers.........).Around+The+world+in+80+days+20
    The protocol specified in this address is not valid.Make sure the address is correct and try
    Using Tixati which has
    In Tixati on settings there is a link Meta-info which has certails fields like drive to save etc and also a column Magnet link format for transfer pop up menue in which the following is filled in "magnet:?xt=urn:btih:[hash]&dn=[name]&xl=[bytes]&fc=[files]"
    There are 2 more columns below that which requires/read
    "append a magnet link to this text file" and "format (start with time/utime).....
    I am not sure what information,if any is required to be filled in and if so when and how and isn't automatically picked up?

    I have noticed that unless exited,the torrent client(tixati) keep showin download (in) and upload at quite huge KBs and when downloading the total download shown at the taskbar is much higher than what is shown against the files/url/peers?Why it is so and where is additional /that download getting used up.In one month it wiped away almost 200GB of my download data limit.Can this be stopped /reduced

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