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By Shamus
on Tuesday Sep 1, 2009
Filed under:


Pardon me, but can I abuse the privilege of having a large audience and just ask you guys a question rather than digging around and doing research?

Garry’s Mod is back. (Whew! Thank you, Garry.) I found a bunch of really cool models that could lead to some great comics, but they’re only available on torrents. Now, I realize that to you young hipsters this is like admitting to being a 40 Year Old Virgin, but I don’t know anything about using torrents.

I’m a bit curious as to what client to use. I’m worried about malware, and about getting a program that’s going to jump up and down in my system tray like a yappy dog. I know how easy it is to get into trouble when you don’t know what you’re doing, and so I thought I’d solicit some advice.

Comments (109)

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  1. Nick C. says:

    If you want to stay away from something tray-hoppy, avoid bitcomet at all costs. It comes packed with hidden software and junk, and annoying things pop up constantly. I’d suggest Utorrent.

  2. Grim says:

    Well, how about µTorrent (also spelled uTorrent) ? A small program (single executable, single settings folder) that does the job, no more, no less. Plus the included chm is full of hints and guides. Yay torrents !

  3. Silfir says:

    I’ve got utorrent (Technically, “mu” torrent, as the u is written like the Ancient Greek “mu”) installed. Downloaded OpenOffice.org with it. It’s a small program and refreshingly unobtrusive. I don’t think it even told me when my downloads were done. It was just sitting there in the system tray, waiting to be hovered over or clicked. But it has been some time since I downloaded OpenOffice.

    EDIT: And while I was typing this, two guys went and made the same suggestion, and one even managed to type an actual µ (which I shamelessly copied).

  4. Illusionary says:

    I second (fourth?) utorrent – simple, basic and no malware or things hanging around when you close it.

  5. I believe that µTorrent is good.

    My husband also uses Vuze on his Mac.


  6. Narkis says:

    I second (third. Damn) μTorrent. Very light and easy to use, with no pesky side effects.

  7. Test. Test.

    Why are my posts disappearing after I hit the “Submit” button?


  8. Mark says:

    For Windows, the standard is µTorrent. It’s extremely featureful, but comparatively resource-light (aside, of course, from network resources). By default it hangs around in your system tray and pops up a notice when a download finishes, but this behavior (along with nearly everything else) can be configured without much difficulty. It’s a safe download – too many downloads by too many security-conscious individuals for there to be something sinister lurking in it – and, as long as you don’t need it to run on non-Windows, should be exactly what you need.

    Remember to be polite and seed beyond a ratio of 1.0 after your download has finished.

  9. AGrey says:



    where n is the number of people before me +1, because i am too lazy to count them.

    but not too lazy to type all this, apparently

  10. Adam says:

    uTorrent, and if you’re on a vaguely respectable tracker site, you’re 90% safe from malware.

  11. unitled says:

    Another thumbs up for uTorrent. The only problems I had with it were when the torrents themselves had something dodgy in them, and that’s not the fault of the client software.

  12. antsheaven says:

    Yep, another vote for utorrent here. Though if you already have a download manager program like Flashget or Free Download Manager, you can just use its built-in torrent client.

  13. Punning Pundit says:

    uTorrent. Is there anything else?

  14. felblood says:

    If you don’t need any advanced features (which you don’t, since you wouldn’t know what to do with them) uTorrent is the way to go.

    There are bigger, bulkier clients that do certain things better, but none of those do anything for a guy who’s just starting out. uTorrent is pretty much the perfect thing for starting out.

    Fair warning, with the power of torrents in your hands, the siren song of piracy can get pretty strong. Steel your will.

  15. Peter H. Coffin says:

    The Opera browser has had a torrent client built in more more than a few versions now.

  16. Chris says:

    I like Azureus (renamed Vuze) once all the Vuze crap is turned off. And a long time ago I used to use ABC. From what I have seen in my connections, uTorrent seems extremely popular, which corresponds with the comments here.

    Really, any Free Software client is going to be safe.

  17. Greg says:

    Rather redundant to post this by now, but like the others have said, uTorrent definitely sounds like what you’re after.

  18. Eldiran says:

    Definitely uTorrent.

  19. Nick says:

    I personally use Vuse (formerly Azureus), but it definitely isn’t small. uTorrent seems popular for a small torrent client, though. :)

  20. Graeme says:

    I’ve used Azureus Vuze for awhile now without much problems, but it’s become afflicted with feature creep and they’re trying to turn it into an actual content provider vs. torrent downloader. It is a nice place to find trailers for games/sci-fi movies and some actual episodes from web series as well. Again though it’s become somewhat bloated and as always the major thing to watch for are the sites themselves that you download from.

  21. vdeogmer says:

    You want to use uTorrent. It’s simple and lightweight.

    The only thing it’s going to do in your tray is popup a notification when your downloads are done.

  22. Jazmeister says:

    To answer the broader question: Torrents are files that hash larger files. Garry’s files are seeded (a seeder is someone who keeps sharing after they’ve downloaded, essentially hosting the file) by Amazon, so there’s no risk of malware (the file is genuine – it’s not drugs disguised as delicious GModels).

    If you were downloading, say, a pirated movie, there’s no way to know you’re not actually downloading a horrible virus until it’s done and you’re neck-deep in it. That’s where the (very founded) suspicions come from. Hope that helps!

    (I use uTorrent. PCG UK package it with their cover disc, so it’s always handy if I’ve just installed Windows.)

  23. zimboptoo says:

    μTorrent is my torrent application of choice when on a Windows system, for all the reasons listed above. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been ported to linux yet (though there is a Mac beta). So I usually end up using bittornado or Transmission (though I hear KTorrent works really well for those using KDE). Azureus is well featured and works on all OSs that run Java, but it’s a resources monster.

  24. jokermatt999 says:

    I suggest rTorrent.

    Nah, just kidding, n+1 for uTorrent. It does notify when torrents finish, but it is really lightweight and unobtrusive. It’s a really damn good program.

    As for malware concerns, there are virtually none. Since torrents rely on people also sharing them, malware is actually more difficult to find than legit files. I can’t think of a single instance of problems I’ve had with malware from torrents. Obviously it’s not bulletproof, but it appears to work well.

    • Shamus says:

      Okay, to stop the torrent of uTorrent suggestions: I got it.

      It works.

      It’s SLOOOOOOW.

      10MB file. It’d be a 10 second job via HTTP. Right now it’s been going for 15 mins and has over an hour to go. An hour and a half. For 10MB. I think this is this slower than a 14.4 modem.

  25. vdeogmer says:

    Torrents are always slow to start with, once you start seeding a larger portion of the file yourself, your download speed will go up to more reasonable rates.

    Depending on the seeders, of course.

  26. vede says:


    I guess I’m weird. I use BitTorrent.

    Works fine for me, and it’s never done anything against my wishes.

    Shamus: Yeah, on torrents, you’re at the mercy of seeders, who are able to control the speed and number of people at/to which they upload, and a lot of people will limit their speed and upload slots to avoid destroying their standard internet usablity.

    You gotta sacrifice having a big server to download from, for… um… Hrm. Well, they tend to be safer and easier to find than direct downloads when you’re trying to pirate things… And for a lot of recent/popular games, the number of seeders is good enough to make the speed about the same as a direct download.

    Of course, I don’t think you plan on pirating much, so I expect uTorrent will go unused for very long periods of time between uses for you…

  27. Pimterry says:

    Yeah, torrents aren’t so quick to start with. To be honest, anybody using them for a 10mb file is a damn fool, for that much data it’d almost be quicker to just phone around the swarm and write down numbers together.

    Hmmm… I think I hear an RFC brewing…

  28. Ciennas says:

    Well, in addition, Ubuntu comes bundled with Transmission, which serves my needs just fine.

    It’s even integrated ro work with the preinstalled firefox.

    I haven’t used any others, but it let’s me choose which files within the torrent, the download speed roof, max number of peers, and can raise or lower priority for individual files.

  29. Julian says:

    µTorrent is the way to go. Lightweight, safe, and doesn’t use up any resources.
    As for trackers, I recommend either btjunkie.org, thepiratebay.org, or isohunt.com (a metasearch engine).
    I mostly use bittorrent to share files among tons of friends, watch a movie before it hits theaters here in Argentina, or play a game for which there is no demo, or of which I’m unsure about buying (for instance, while I liked Mirror’s Edge, paying $60 would be a ripoff)

    Do make sure the torrent you’re downloading has a good ratio of seeders (people with the entire torrent downloaded who are also sharing) and leechers (people still downloading, but, ideally, still sharing what they’ve got).

    It helps to think of torrent like this:
    Imagine 5 people all want the same book, which is 100 pages long. Each of them is sitting at a round table and has a photocopier. Person 1 has all 100 pages, while the rest don’t have any. Person 1 starts copying random pages of the books and gives them to Person 2. Person 2, although he doesn’t have the entire book, can still make copies of the pages he already has. Person 1 is a Seeder: constantly sharing, while 2-5 are Leechers: dividing their attention between getting pages for their own book and making copies for the rest.

    ALSO: if you have a static IP, make sure uTorrent’s listen port is forwarded properly, and play around the settings to avoid using all your bandwidth on uploading.

  30. Agaib says:

    I think speed is probably more limited by the file you’re trying to download than the actually torrent client you’re using. I think you’d get similar speeds with any other program trying to download the same file.

  31. Jericho says:

    Torrent speed is entirely dependent on seeders. Few seeders? Slow download.

  32. Guy says:


    How’s the weather on Mars?

  33. You have utorrent: Now make it faster with a little configuration help. The most important part of this guide deals with getting your ports forwarded correctly and tuning your upload limits, cable connections in particular lose their download speed when the upload is saturated.


    Also, I’m bored and have the bandwidth to spare. If you throw up links to the files in question, I’ll hop on and help out the swarm.

  34. Peter Olson says:

    edit: All my talk has already been fully described above. ;-)

    So the short story I was trying to say is, torrents start slow, speed up, but will only go as fast as there are people sharing it.

  35. Blake says:

    I guess that makes me the fifth person to suggest µTorrent. It’s like < 300 KB for the whole application. Extremely nice lightweight client.

    Edit: And by 5th, I mean 500th or so

  36. DmL says:

    You have to make sure you’re accepting connections on your ports.

  37. hevis says:

    Shamus: Go to uTorrent’s Speed Guide (ctrl+g) and pick connection type that’s closest to yours. (I think default is 28.8k dial-up..)

  38. Factoid says:

    I know the “torrents start slow and get faster” and “uTorrent is awesome” comments are both done to death by now, but they are definitely true.

    I will throw my different two cents in though and say some clients seem to do a better job at accelerating the seed/peer hunting process.

    I used to have great luck with Azureus. if you can find an old version before it became Azureus Vuze I still think it’s the best torrent client I’ve used. Good features, lots of useful information available, etc…but they ruined it by trying to turn it into a media hub, which it’s exceptionally terrible at and now it’s bloated and lacks focus. The old versions can still be found, though.

  39. mc says:

    @Chris: utorrent isn’t free software* like Vuze, though.(If that’s what you meant.)

    *: ‘free software’ in the hippy-dippy sense.

  40. NCarlson says:

    You might also want to check your settings; port forwarding is the biggie, but upload slots and speed can kill download speed as well.

    Having never used p2p and being in µTorrent my suggestion is to just do whatever the speed guide (ctrl+g or under options) tells you (theres actually a button to auto set it to recommended).

  41. Benjamin Orchard says:

    Okay, I KNOW μTorrent is well-suggested at this point.

    There’s a reason why.

    I won’t clamor about that anymore, but consider this a bit more: it’s also one of the more feature-rich clients without doing anything *else*. It doesn’t try to VIEW files, it doesn’t try to be anything other than a comprehensive CLIENT for downloading torrents (VUZE I’m looking you!!!). It remains, therefore, very lightweight while allowing you to selectively choose which files from an archive you download, providing several other nifty features that other more bloated clients lack.

    I wish μTorrent was available for OS X (PPC) 10.4.

    Oh well…

  42. SatansBestBuddy says:

    I use BitComet. >.>

    I’m weird I guess, even though my main internet browser is Opera, which can torrent files as well, but I’ll still open pretty much all torrents with BitComet.

  43. Unbeliever says:

    Ditto, utorrent.

    Ditto, you’re at the mercy of the number of seeders and the bandwidth they’re willing to sacrifice.

    Torrenting isn’t about speed.

    Torrenting is about downloading files that (due to obscurity or legality) no big-bandwidth website is willing to host…

    Embrace the slow… :)

  44. ngthagg says:

    I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding about torrents here: the “start slow, finish fast” rule is not much of a rule at all. In fact, it only applies when a torrent is first released (ie, when there is only one seed), and then only if there are lots of leechers. For new releases, there is only one copy of each chunk of the data, so download rates are limited by the upload rate of the one seeder. As pieces get spread around the leecher crowd, however, you can connect to many different people and have access to the entire file.

    But if there are no fellow leechers, then the download speed at the start will stay slow the entire way through. Your only choice then (assuming there’s no direct download available) is to let the torrent chug away until it’s done. One nice thing about torrents is that download management is built into the system, so you can stop and start your download whenever it’s convenient (ie, download at night when your computer would otherwise be idle).

  45. errolian says:

    Dare I say µTorrent :)

    You will have to forward the right ports and set-up your connection speed, and after that should whiz along nicely.

  46. Diremongoose says:

    Torrent speeds are often limited by the country in which the other seeders/peers live. If you you live outside of the US, as I do, this is usually the case. Sometimes, even with hundreds of seeds/peers, a relatively small download can take days or weeks.

  47. kobyov says:

    Another good idea with uTorrent is to set outgoing encryption to forced. Depending on how good your ISP’s DPI gear (assuming they have it) is, this can help minimise the effects of traffic throttling.

  48. TehShrike says:

    Torrenting just means downloading files from more than one computer at a time (usually, the computers of other people like you).

    There’s no more risk of getting a virus than there is from any other method of getting files – if you’re downloading an image file, there’s nothing to worry about (unless you have some crazy image viewer that interprets pixels as operating system commands, which would be freaky).

    Generally, the more you seed (let people download from you) the faster you will download things (as you will get seeded to yourself more readily).

    Of course, if you’re downloading a torrent that has many people seeding, and not many other people downloading, you’ll get the file pretty quickly regardless.

    If you want to download something (illegal or no), but you’re afraid some copyright-monger might catch you in the act and try to make something of it, install PeerGuardian – it’s a simple blacklist software, that comes with some very hefty blacklists of IP addresses that you probably don’t want to connect to, no matter how much you do or don’t pirate.

  49. Yar Kramer says:

    I recommend this explanation of How Bittorrent Works, if you’re that unfamiliar with the mere concept.

  50. Just to be contrary, I’ll put out there that I use ktorrent over utorrent. This is entirely because I’m a linux user, and it comes in the default kde packages. Also, as free-as-in-speech software, I trust it to be malware-free.

  51. Telas says:

    Has anyone suggested uTorrent yet?


  52. Jabor says:

    Wow, looks like I got in late to the party.

    I used to use Azureus, but about the time they released Vuze I switched over to microTorrent (yes, that’s what the “µ” prefix means).

    Also, did someone say crazy image viewer that interprets pixels as operating system commands?

  53. ZomBuster says:

    If your torrents are slow just google “utorrent speedguide” or something and you’ll get plenty of guides how to setup the client for maximum speed.

  54. Henebry says:

    I often find torrents are fastest in the middle of the download. Toward the end, it seems like you’re hunting for the last, rare card in a new Magic release.

  55. WILL says:

    Guys I think Shamus is downloading the nude Zoey mod.

    *looks around suspiciously*

  56. bbot says:

    µTorrent is fine, sure.

    If you’re a wuss.

    Like all gentlemen of a finer caliber, I use rtorrent, a refined torrent client, from a more civilized age. I bury in in a screen tab, and tell it to watch my downloads directory for new .torrents, and to automatically start them. Check back a couple hours later, and my perfectly legitimate music files and distro images are downloaded.

    It is, of course, for linux only.

  57. Shamus, its slow because your port forwarding hasnt been setup in all likelihood. Youll want to follow all teh steps in the Utorrent Setup Guide here:


    which involves ports and other optimizations. Once this is all set, you can verify that you are good to go by the green icon in the bottom statusbar of the utorrent window. if its a red or yellow icon then youre not optimal yet.

    theres also a menu option to test port forwardoing and another to check connection speed – use those.

  58. Graeme says:

    In regards to a slow download speed, it might depend on your own settings. At least on Azureus you can set limits on your max upload/download speed. I don’t know about µTorrent, but I suspect it’s the same. So if your download limit is set too low it’ll slow things down no matter how fast or how many seeders there are. The problem I’ve had with torrents is it sucks up all the bandwidth when it downloads… which tends to piss off your roommates.

  59. Rosseloh says:

    Definitely µTorrent. Small, unobtrusive, easy to shut off when you’re not using it.

    Your download speeds are dependent mainly on the seeds you’re connected to and whether or not your ports are forwarded (you can customize which port in the program). I don’t think it’s µTorrent itself, I’ve gotten nearly 1Mbps at times. Of course, you could be an anomaly…. :P

  60. The Ocho says:

    Anyone mention uTorrent yet? Kidding kidding.

  61. pwiggi says:

    Just to provide an alternative to µTorrent:

    If you’ve got a Linux machine around you can use torrentflux, a web-based torrent client. You can just send torrent files to it from your browser (via a firefox plugin). Then you can shut down / reboot your desktop without even pausing the torrents.

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