How to Download Torrents on a Chromebook

download torrents on chromebook
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What is BitTorrent?

One of the most popular methods of distributing files on the web is through the BitTorrent protocol, which allows you to download music, movies, software applications and other media with ease. BitTorrent uses a style of  peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing, meaning that you obtain these files from other users like yourself. In fact, the way it typically works is that you download different parts of the same file from multiple computers at the same time.

Although this may sound a bit confusing to a novice user, have no fear. BitTorrent client software handles all of this coordination for you and in the end, you are left with a complete set of files on your hard drive. 

Torrent files, or torrents, contain information which instructs this software on how to obtain the particular file or files that you wish to download. The seeding method used tends to speed things up since you're establishing multiple connections simultaneously.

Downloading torrents on Chrome OS is similar in some ways to how it's done on mainstream operating systems, with some key exceptions. The tough part for beginners is knowing which software is required and how to use it. The tutorial below walks you through the process of downloading torrents on a Chromebook.

This tutorial does not go into detail about where to find torrent files. For more information on locating torrents as well as the potential dangers found in torrenting, check out the following articles.

The Top Torrent Sites
Public Domain Torrents: Free and Legal Torrent Downloads
Torrent Download Guide: A Beginner's Intro

In addition to these sites and search engines, there are also several torrent search apps and extensions available within the Chrome Web Store.

BitTorrent Software for Chromebooks

The number of functional BitTorrent client apps and extensions available for Chrome OS is limited, so if you have past experience downloading torrents on other operating systems you may be disappointed in the lack of options and flexibility.

With that said, the following software will allow you to download the files that you desire when utilized correctly.

JSTorrent

The BitTorrent client most commonly used by Chromebook owners, JSTorrent is as close to a full-featured torrent app that you're going to find on Chrome OS. Coded solely in JavaScript and designed with both low and high-end Chromebook hardware in mind, it lives up to the solid reputation established by its significant user base. One reason some Chromebook owners tend to shy away from JSTorrent is the $2.99 price tag attached to the installation, well worth the fee if you regularly download torrents. If you're hesitant to pay for the app sight unseen, there is a trial version available called JSTorrent Lite which is detailed later in this article. Follow these steps to begin using the JSTorrent app.

To make things even easier it's recommended that you also install the JSTorrent Helper extension, available for free in the Chrome Web Store. When installed, an option labeled Add to JSTorrent is added to your browser's context menu which allows you to initiate a download directly from any torrent or magnet link on a web page.

  1. Access the JSTorrent app page in the Chrome Web Store by visiting this direct link or by navigating to chrome.google.com/webstore in your browser and entering "​jstorrent" in the search box found in the upper left-hand corner.
  1. The JSTorrent pop-out window should now be visible, overlaying your main browser interface. Click on the orange button labeled BUY FOR $2.99.
  2. A dialog will now be displayed detailing the levels of access JSTorrent will have on your Chromebook once installed, which includes the ability to write to files opened within the app as well as the rights to exchange data with devices on both your local network and the open web. Click on the Add app button if you accept these terms, or Cancel to halt the purchase and return to the previous page.
  3. At this point, you may be prompted to enter your credit or debit card information to complete your purchase. If you have a current card already tied to your Google account, then this step may not be necessary. Once you've entered the requested information, click on the Buy button.
  1. The purchase and installation process should now begin automatically. This should only take a minute or less but could be slightly longer on slower connections. You'll notice that the BUY FOR $2.99 button is now replaced by LAUNCH APP. Click on this button to continue.
  2. The JSTorrent app interface should now be visible in the foreground. To get started, first click on the Settings button.
  3. The App Settings window should now be displayed. Click on the Choose button.
  4. At this point, you should be asked for the location where you'd like your torrent downloads to be saved. Select the Downloads folder and click on the Open button.
  5. The Current Location value in App Settings should now read Downloads. Click on the 'x' in the upper right-hand corner to return to the main JSTorrent interface.
  6. The next step is to add the torrent file associated with the download that you wish to initiate. You can type in or paste the torrent URL or magnet URI in the edit field found at the top of the app's main window. Once the field is populated, click on the Add button to begin your download. You can also select an already downloaded file with a .torrent extension from your local hard drive or Google's cloud storage instead of using the URL or URI. To do so, first ensure that the aforementioned edit field is blank and click on the Add button. Next, select the desired torrent file and click on Open.
  7. Your download should start immediately, assuming that the torrent you selected is valid and that it is being seeded by at least one available user on the P2P network. You can monitor the progress of each download via the Status, Down Speed, Complete, and Downloaded columns. Once a download is completed it will be placed in your Downloads folder and be available for use. You can also start or stop a download at any point by selecting it from the list and clicking on the appropriate button.

    There are many other configurable settings available in JSTorrent, including the ability to raise or lower the number of active downloads as well as the option to tweak how many connections each torrent download utilizes. Modifying these settings is only recommended for advanced users who are comfortable with BitTorrent client software.

    JSTorrent Lite

    JSTorrent Lite features limited functionality and only allows 20 downloads before its free trial expires. It does, however, give you an opportunity to try the app and determine whether or not you want to pay $2.99 for the full version of the product and continue downloading in perpetuity. If you don't feel comfortable spending the money before giving JSTorrent a test drive, or if you only plan to download a limited number of torrents, then the trial version may be just what you need. To upgrade to the full version of the app at any time, click on the shopping cart icon in the upper right-hand corner of the window and choose the Buy JSTorrent on the Chrome Web Store link.

    Bitford

    Also JavaScript-based, Bitford allows you to download torrents on your Chromebook. Unlike JSTorrent, this app can be installed free of charge. You get what you pay for, though, as Bitford is as plain as can be in terms of available functionality. This bare-bones app does get the job done, allowing you to start a download if you already have a torrent file available on your local disk, but doesn't offer much else in the way of customization or modifiable settings.

    Bitford also lets you play some types of media directly within the app interface itself, which can come in handy when you want to check the quality of a completed download prior to saving it. Although it is free, the Bitford app is still technically classified as an alpha version by its developers. When software is referred to as "alpha," it typically means it's not nearly finished yet and might have some serious flaws preventing it from working correctly. Therefore, I usually do not recommend utilizing software in its alpha phase. Even more alarming, the app has not been updated since early 2014 so it looks like the project has been abandoned. Use Bitford at your own risk.

    Cloud-Based Torrenting

    BitTorrent client apps aren't the only way to download torrents with a Chromebook, as cloud-based services make torrenting possible without installing any software whatsoever on your device. The way most of these sites work is by facilitating torrent downloads on their servers, as opposed to you directly downloading files locally with apps like Bitford and JSTorrent. These server-side torrent services will typically allow you to input a torrent URL on their website to initiate a download, similar to what you can do within the JSTorrent interface. Once the transfer is completed you are usually given the option to play the media directly from the server, when applicable, or download the desired files to your hard drive.

    The majority of these sites offer different levels of accounts, each providing additional storage space and increased download speeds for a higher price. Most will allow you to create a free account as well, limiting how much you can download and throttling transfer speeds accordingly. Some services like Seedr feature Chrome-based software designed to enhance your torrenting experience, in the form of its browser extension that designates the cloud-based service as your default torrent client. Similar well-known sites include Bitport.io, Filestream.me, Put.io and ZbigZ; each offering their own unique feature sets.

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