Most of us are comfortable using BitTorrent to download files, but the popular file-sharing protocol is also a great tool for sharing your own stuff with family, friends or the world at large. Here's the basics of creating your own torrent.
Proven by the popularity of BitTorrent sites, torrents offer a well-known method of peer-to-peer file-sharing. Torrents are useful for sharing large files with family and friends, as well as with a wide audience. It has been estimated BitTorrent traffic may account for over 40 per cent of all internet traffic.
Note: Despite common misconceptions to the contrary, BitTorrent can be and often is used to share files legally and isn't just used for piracy.
How BitTorrent Works
Developer Bram Cohen designed and released BitTorrent back in July 2001. Back then, there was only one torrent application — the so aptly named BitTorrent. What made BitTorrent different from previous peer-to-peer sharing programs was that it utilised bandwidth more efficiently while discouraging leeching. (In layman's terms, "leeching" is when one user downloads a file, but does not allow uploads, therefore limiting other users from downloading the file. A leecher takes more than what he gives.)
What basically happens when you open up a torrent in a BitTorrent client is that the program automatically finds other users who have a portion of or the whole file you want to download. It accomplishes this task by using trackers. Your BitTorrent client will then download multiple and different pieces of the same file from different users at the same time while also sharing any pieces they've already downloaded, greatly improving the overall speed of distribution.
For more torrent jargon, people who share the whole file are known as "seeders". It's optimal to pick a torrent that has at least one seeder sharing, or you risk your download never being finished. It is for this reason that hugely popular files are often quicker to download than more obscure ones.
What You Need To Get Started
To create your own torrent, you'll need a basic torrent client to get started off on the right path. Windows is primarily dominated by torrent program uTorrent, while Mac users will find that Transmission may be more up their alley. (uTorrent is available for Mac, but it's not as full-featured.) Linux users may want to try Azureus or KTorrent. If you're still not sure about which application to use, check out the five best BitTorrent tools according to Lifehacker readers.
How To Create Your Own Torrent
In general, creating a torrent to share your own files is very simple. All you need is a good torrent program to get you started on sharing your personal files. In your favourite torrent program, go to the File menu and click the option to create a new torrent. Then you'll need to select the source/files that you want to share in your torrent. It can be a single file or even a directory. After this step, you'll need to input some public or private trackers into your torrent. It's possible to use more than one, but in general one is enough.
Here's a list of some uTorrent public trackers, courtesy of TorrentFreak:
After that's done, you'll need to specify whether your torrent is a private torrent or not (if you're using a private tracker, you'll need to. If you aren't, you can most likely leave this part alone). Then all that's left to be done is to save the torrent file and send it to your friends or whoever else you want to share it with. TorrentFreak has a specific step-by-step guide for some of the most popular BitTorrent programs out there, but the concept is basically the same for all clients.
Tips and Tricks of Torrenting
We've covered sly and clever tricks using torrents in the past, so if you're interested in remote controlling your torrent downloads, setting up a season pass to automatically download your favourite TV shows, and other tricks up that alley, check it out.
There's obviously a lot more to BitTorrent — we'd love to hear any additional tips for how you make the most of BitTorrent, so sound off in the comments.