BitTorrent File Searches and Downloads

2 Basic Ways to Find Torrents on the Many Sites That Host Them

File Transfer (BLUE)
Getty Images/Daniel Halvorson

Unlike other peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks, BitTorrent lacks a centralized, built-in search capability. This is because BitTorrent is not a website, but a data transfer protocol designed for large files and fast speeds. It's a method, rather than a site or service, so there's no central point of access.

Instead, a vast number of sites host tiny, quickly downloadable files known as torrents (denoted by the .torrent extension) that contain information about the actual files users set out to find.

These much larger target files, in turn, reside on (and are split into chunks among) any number of other hosts. The torrent merely tells your BitTorrent client where to find them. Therefore, to find torrents to download, you must search across the many sites that host them.

The most common ways of finding torrents are (1) using a BitTorrent client with search functionality and (2) manually searching the various websites that host torrents.

Using a BitTorrent Client to Search for and Download Torrents

Not all BitTorrent clients (software that facilitates downloading and uploading of torrents) offer the built-in ability to search, but many do. A few to try include:

These typically feature an intuitive browser-like interface, into which you enter search terms. The client then searches across a vast network of sites that host torrents and returns torrents that match your search terms.

Once downloaded, the torrent then tells the client where to find the files for which you've searched so that they can be downloaded. Because they're typically downloaded in chunks from many sources, this can be a fairly quick process.

Using a Browser to Search for and Download Torrents

Using a browser is another method to execute BitTorrent file searches and downloads.

Instead of searching from within the BitTorrent client, you perform a search through one of the many sites that list torrents. Downloading and opening a torrent file will trigger your client to open, at which point it will attempt to download the larger target file from whatever sources are available.

Among the many torrent listing sites available as of August 2017 are:

A quick web search for BitTorrent sites will yield many more. Their availability varies over time due to the tendency of some users to attempt to download copyrighted material. (Note that doing so is a crime that can carry substantial penalties.) Users who prefer to keep their torrent browsing and downloading habits private often use virtual private networks (VPNs), which encrypt information and make their activities virtually untraceable.

Whichever method you use, your file will be downloaded onto your hard drive in a folder you designate using your client.