uTorrent released a premium version of their BitTorrent client today, with some cool features like automatic virus scanning, video conversion for multiple devices and the ability to download torrents remotely. It does, however, come with a somewhat hefty $US25 price tag. Here’s how you can get and automate the best features of uTorrent Plus for free.
Automatic Antivirus Scanning
If you’d like to automatically scan downloaded torrents for viruses and malware, you can actually do so using uTorrent’s built-in “Run a program” feature. We’re going to use Microsoft Security Essentials as an example, but you can do this with any antivirus program that has command line switches. Just head to uTorrent’s preferences, and go to Advanced > Run Program. Under “Run this program when a torrent finishes”, type:
“C:\Program Files\Microsoft Security Client\Antimalware\MPCMDRUN.EXE” -Scan -3 -“%D”
Of course, if you have MSE stored somewhere else, or use a drive other than C: as your main drive, you can edit the command accordingly. With this in place, MSE will automatically bring up a new command prompt window and scan that torrent folder for viruses. If it finds anything, it will let you know. The other big advantage to this method, beyond being free, is that you get to use your favourite antivirus program, not just the one that BitTorrent supplies (which is BitDefender, incidentally).
Automatic Video Conversion
Video conversion is a bit more complicated. uTorrent’s conversion setup is actually very nice: It lets you plug in your Android or iPhone device, and it’ll create a preset for it for one-click conversions. That said, you can just as easily use free video encoder Handbrake to convert your videos. It has a few presets already, most of which are built for Apple products, but they’ll work for other devices just as well. For example, if you want to convert video for your Android phone, just use the iPhone 4 preset, or if you want to convert video for your Xbox 360, just use the Apple TV 2 preset.
Of course, what would be really cool is if we could set certain videos to convert automatically when they finish downloading. Well, we can. It requires a bit more work, but can be really cool when you’ve finished. For this, you’ll need to download and install:
- Previously mentioned DropFolders, which will watch for incoming videos and convert them using Handbrake
- Belvedere, which will move your videos out of the torrent’s folder and into DropFolders
Download and install DropFolders first. Open it up and create a new profile pointing to your Downloads folder (or whatever folder you have uTorrent set to download to). Under “Handbrake Arguments”, you can type in any of Handbrake’s command line arguments to define how you want the video converted. So, for example, if you want your torrent to automatically convert to an iPhone-friendly format, you’d type
in the Arguments box. Then, when a video torrent finishes downloading, Handbrake should automatically start and convert the file to an iPhone-friendly format for you.
Now, you probably don’t want all your videos converted to the same file type. The best way to handle this in uTorrent is Labels. Head to uTorrent’s preferences, then go to Directories in the left sidebar. Choose a directory for completed downloads (I just use Windows’ Downloads folder), then check the “Append the torrent’s label” box. Now, when you add a label to a torrent (by right-clicking on it and going to Labels > New Label), it creates a subfolder in your downloads folder with that label’s name. So, for example, you could create a label called “iPhone”, and apply it to torrents you want converted to an iPhone video format. Then, just set DropFolders’ Watch Folder to “C:\Users\Whitson\Downloads\iPhone” (instead of just \Downloads), save it as a new preset in DropFolders, and get downloading. Any torrent with the “iPhone” label will automatically be converted for the iPhone, and you can repeat this process for as many other Handbrake presets as you want.
Now, this will work if the torrent you download only contains a video file, but sadly, most don’t. Most torrents put the video file in a subfolder, which DropFolders doesn’t know how to deal with. So lastly, we’re going to make a rule in Belvedere that moves any video files into the root of that label’s folder, so DropFolders can convert them. Open up Belvedere, add your label’s folder on the left sidebar (in this case, \Downloads\iPhone), and add a new rule with the parameters:
Extension > Matches one of > mp4,mkv,avi
mp4,mkv,avi includes any video file types you might encounter. Under “Do the Following”, set Belvedere to move the file to the “iPhone” folder, as pictured above.
Now, whenever you apply the “iPhone” label to a torrent in uTorrent, Belvedere will move that video to the root of the iPhone folder, and DropFolders will convert it for you. Yes, it’s a very roundabout way of doing this, but if you download and convert a ton of stuff, it can be pretty handy.
Lastly, uTorrent Plus lets you fetch completed torrents off your home computer from any other machine using the remote web interface. You can, however, get the same result by sending your finished torrents to your Dropbox folder instead of your Downloads folder. Then, when they finish, you’ll be able to access them from any computer. Of course, you might not have enough Dropbox space for such a big file (even if you’ve gotten a bunch of free space), and this can be pretty slow — you have to wait for the file to upload to Dropbox’s servers, then re-download it to your remote computer. Not to mention the damage it can do if your ISP caps your bandwidth. A better option is to set up an FTP server at home, then use an app like Cyberduck to access that server and download any completed file you may want access to. It’ll take a bit longer, but it’s going to be more effective than something like Dropbox.
The free replacements for uTorrent’s features may take a bit of time and energy to set up, but if you don’t want to pay the $US25, they’ll do just as good a job as uTorrent Plus. Of course, they’re pretty great features, and if you don’t feel like going through all of the above, it could be worth the $US25. At the very least, though, everyone should set up automatic virus scanning — especially if you’re downloading sketchier torrents. That could save your bacon on more than a few occasions.