• How to download stuff online for free

    06/04 2009

    1. Learn a bit about the lingo.

    There are only a few words you need to know, but it’ll really help you navigate your way around:

    Torrent file/Magnet file
    The initial file that you’ll download is tiny. All that it contains is information about the bigger file you want to download. Think of it as a map for your computer, telling it where to find the real file.

    Leechers/Peers
    The minute you start loading, you’re a leecher: someone who is downloading the file, and doesn’t have the complete file. Leechers become seeders after downloading the full file.

    Seeders/Seeds
    A ‘seeder’ is a person who has already completed the download, and is still uploading (sending) data to the people who are downloading (receiving).

     

    2. Download and install a torrent program.

    I like:
    uTorrent, http://www.utorrent.com/
    Transmission http://www.transmissionbt.com/download/
    I use uTorrent, so that’s what I’ll be using for the explanation.


    3. Go to a torrent site and search for a file you want to download.

    There are a ton of torrent sites, but the one I like most is The Pirate Bay: http://thepiratebay.se/

    It’s clean, easy-to-use, and I’ve only downloaded good files. Say you go to TPB and search ‘Dexter.’ Over 1000 files found!

    The torrent files are immediately listed by the date they were uploaded: newer files first. That doesn’t mean that you automatically want the newest one: sometimes multiple/foreign versions of the same episode get uploaded.

    On top, in the column headers you’ll see
    1: ‘Type’ (type of file)

    2. Name (Order by Uploaded), Size, ULed by, SE, LE); SE, LE. Clicking on any one of these links will rearrange the files.

    3. Name (Order by SE) SE=Seeders

    4. Name (Order by LE) LE=Leechers

    5. 1,000 files found!

    Let’s start filtering the results to get what we want. At the top, click on the box for ‘video’ and hit return. Then, in the second column header, click on the ‘SE.’ There, now you only see videos, and they’re ordered by ‘Seeders.’

    Since ‘seeders’ means ‘people who have the entire file and are letting others download it,’ the more seeders, the more quickly you’ll be able to download the file.

    Typing in ‘Mad Men,’ for example, and you can see the best file to download has over 8000 seeders. If you’re more interested in quality (downloading a big-ass file), check for the size of the file.

     

     

    (As a rule of thumb, half-hour shows are around 175 MB, and hour-long shows are around 350 MB.)

    Clicking on the Mad Men file you want takes you to another screen:


    Click GET THIS TORRENT.

    4. Download the torrent.

    Hopefully the file will automatically open in the program you downloaded in step one, uTorrent. If not, just open uTorrent and click the GET THIS TORRENT LINK again.
    (If this is giving you trouble and you’re on a Mac, download Default Apps: http://www.rubicode.com/Software/RCDefaultApp/ ), and install it. In the extensions tab, make sure that uTorrent is the default app for files ending in ‘torrent.)

    Here’s the screen when you’re downloading:

    If your screen doesn’t look like this, go to ‘preferences’ and click these boxes:


    The numbers on the bottom are important. The first one tells you how fast you’re downloading, and the second tells you how fast you’re uploading. Click on those numbers to set limits. I recommend setting a limit for the second number, uploading, to increase your download time.┬áIf the little light in the bottom-right corner is red or yellow, click on it a few times until it turns green. (You may have to give it a few seconds to refresh.)

    If the light on the bottom isn’t green (and it’s downloading really, really slow), randomize the connection:

    If you’re downloading a file with a lot of seeders on a good, fast internet connection, you can download a show in 10 minutes. (This happens whenever I download a show that just came out.)

    If you’re downloading the entire season of something, all of the episodes will be listed under the ‘files’ tab. Right-click to change the priority: by setting the first few episodes to ‘high’ priority, for example, you can watch the first few episodes while the others are still downloading!

    Sometimes, the file takes a few minutes to get going to a good speed. If it’s slow, make sure that you don’t have a limit on your download speed, which you can set by choosing uTorrent-Preferences-Bandwidth, or by clicking the arrow on the bottom where I wrote ‘how fast you’re downloading.’

    When you’re done:

    5. Watching the file!
    There are a few good ways to watch files on your computer, VLC and Movist, which support many kinds of files. (QuickTime and other pre-installed video programs don’t always let you watch what you downloaded from a torrent site. That doesn’t mean that the file is bad, it might mean that the video player only accepts a few kinds of files!)

    VLC: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html
    Movist: http://code.google.com/p/movist/downloads/list

    Video file types include: MP4, Avi, mpg, mkv.

    Open your video player. Open your newly downloaded file. Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions!

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