Believe it or not, in certain circles I'm considered somewhat "tech savvy" which I don't really agree with. Anyone can type words into a google search bar and it only takes a slightly more adventurous soul to go see where the results lead them. I do that, and if that makes me tech savvy, then the twice weekly lovemaking sessions I have with my girlfriend must make me a sex god. (Ladies, my number is…)
Still this tiny modicum of Google-fu I've picked up over the years seems to make me qualified to consult for all my friends on the sekrets of the intertubes, and the one thing I'm asked more than anything else is "where do I download movies?"
So today I'm going to show and tell everyone who reads this in layman's terms how to download stuff (not just movies) using Torrents.
Before I begin I feel compelled to make a short discussion regarding legality. I'm not a lawyer or a student of law. I'm just a kid who believes strongly that the internet should remain a pure and neutral ground for communication of all sorts of information. I also believe that people are entitled to recieve money equivelant to the market value of the works they produce. Torrents are a tool, that tool can be used for both legal and illegal things like all tools. The more everyone comes to understanding these tools better the more people will find legal ways to use them and legitimate ways to profit from their use. Torrents aren't a new thing, they've been around for perhaps a decade, and they won't be going anywhere soon.
There is no anonyminity with Torrents, if someone wants to track how much of whatever you are downloading they can quite easily, so liken this lesson to me explaining how to effectively use a gun. I am in no way responsible for how you use this knowlege.
To start you will need to download and install some programs. The first is a Torrent Client, on my PC I use an older version of Azureus, and on my Mac I use Tomato Torrent, however there are others as well. Some of these trackers require Java, so if you're having problems getting them to work then consider updating that too.
If you intend to download video media, then you will need DIVX. DIVX is a compression format somewhat like MP3's are for Audio. DIVX files are called .avi files, however the compression is (as I understand it) a propriatary technology patented by DIVX the company. If someone wants to set me straight on this then by all means, but all you really need to know is that by downloading and installing it (a very quick and painless affair), your video players on your computer will be able to play .avi files. These files are much smaller than a standard DVD video file, 4 to 6 .avi movies will fit on a standard DVD.
There are now DVD players that support DIVX format discs which you can buy at most any retailer for around $50.00 All you need to look for is the DIVX logo in amongst the logo's for Dolby Digital, DTX sound, Compact Disc player and the like. If your DVD player has this little logo on it, then you will be able to burn the .avi files to a disc and play them in your DVD player rather than having to convert them to a DVD playable file (which is far more complicated and time consuming and I won't be explaining in this post). Videophiles may notice a degredation in quality by doing this, but I have a 37 inch 1080p HD TV and I don't see much of a difference between these discs and a regular DVD, but everyone is different.
As I mentioned before, torrents to not just share movies but so many other sorts data, from documents, to books, to programs to games. Many of these are compressed in some other way and there are too many sorts of compressions to explain in this post. You will run into files that your computer won't know how to read. When this happens take a look at the file extension. It might be a .rar, or .mkv, or .iso or something else, google it and I promise within the first 5 results there will be a page explaining what program reads that particular file type. Some programs such as .iso 's are a bit more complex to read then others but if you read up on how to do it just as you're doing now you'll end up teaching yourself and then you too will be "tech savvy".
Now that you have a torrent tracker and DIVX you need to know how to find Torrent Files. Torrent clients are not like Napster or Limewire or Kazaa in that they do not find the files for you, to do that you go to a torrent site. Torrent sites are effectively search engines that only find torrent files, some are reputable and some are not, some require registration and some don't, nearly all torrent sites are in a perpetual state of being sued by one organisation or another, this state sometimes means that a site is forced to go down for a time sometimes permanently, but often not. My personal favorite torrent sites are http://www.isohunt.com and http://www.torrentz.com. Neither require registration to use. Another well known site is http://www.thepiratebay.org which gets a lot of press in the news for it's constant legal flux.
In the search bar of the torrent site you will need to type whatever you're looking to download and search for it. Nearly any sort of data is available on torrent but the more obscure or fringe the data the more likely you'll need a special community to find it. The best things to find in the public domain are movies, TV shows, and popular computer programs and games. All of these are very quick to come online, a TV show episode will become prolific on the torrents within 24 hours of it airing. Most movies can be gotten before their realease date on video, however being impatient will often yield tainted goods. By tainted I mean camera jobs which ALWAYS look like shit. (A camera job is where someone sneaks a video camera into a movie theatre and records the movie as it plays.) With movies the medium the file is recorded through is usually listed in the file and/or it's description.
When downloading the first thing to look for is the number of seeds a torrent has. More seeds is better, a seed is someone who is uploading the full file. There are also leeches (or peers), they're individuals who are still in the process of downloading the file.
Other things to look for when you're choosing a torrent is the signature, if anyone has rated the file, and any comments the file might have. Signatures are call signs attached to the file's name, people familiar with them know to expect a certain quality. However lots of irreverent types fake their handles too in the hopes of spreading bad things to you. The best way to watch for this is to just see whether or not the file is rated well or not. If a reputable seeder's name is attached to something people have put a negative rating on then it's pretty much certain it's a fake. Of course sometimes you'll have to take your chances, but that's what makes life fun.
When you go to a torrent site and search for whatever you're looking for you'll be given a list of available options to download. When you choose one of these options to grab it downloads a small file to your computer. This file you load up into the torrent client you chose. When you do this your client will begin downloading your files. Once you have the full file you were after you no longer need the small torrent file and you can delete it or keep it as a fond memento.
Functionally torrents work like the way Star Trek describes how their transporter beam works. It breaks the data being transferred into a lot of tiny files and sends them to you from as many different people as possible. This enables you to be sharing the same file you're downloading at the same time, so leeches can help you get your file too, but if there aren't any seeds you'll not complete your transfer.
Anyhow, there's more to it than that, like using a mouse and knowing how to turn on your computer and such, but if you're unable to figure that stuff out then you're beyond my help. I suggest you contact your local neighborhood 6-year-old and offer them money to teach you.