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Bittorrent: How it works

Bittorrent is a popular exchange for large files of all kinds, such as films, music files or software. Bittorrent is particularly well suited for the fast transfer of files for which there is currently a high demand. However, swapping is not as easy as with other file-sharing networks.

This is due to the fact that Bittorrent is ideal for distributing files over the Internet, but was not originally designed as exchange software. Bittorrent exchanges files in a network. One or more providers provide a file for download, Bittorrent clients then download the file to your PC.

This is how the Bittorrent principle works

In contrast to file sharing networks such as Emule or Kazaa, the use of torrent technology creates a separate peer-to-peer network for each individual file as soon as the corresponding file is requested. The provider must generate a control file (metafile, torrent file) with information for download for each file. The size of the torrent file depends on the size of the data file. Typically, a torrent for a 700 MB video is approximately 30 KB. Due to the small size, a torrent file can easily be distributed as a mail attachment or offered for download on a homepage.

The metafile with the TORRENT extension contains a unique ID (hash) with information such as file size and type, as well as the download address. If a torrent file is opened with a client like Azureus (2 point 6), the actual data file begins to download. At least one provider (seed) is required to provide the desired file so that the transfer can be carried out at all.

A server program, the tracker, manages information on one or more torrent files. The client tells him who is currently downloading and distributing the desired file. The highlight: parts of the file can also be downloaded by clients who have already successfully loaded the corresponding piece of the data file onto their computer. The tracker ensures that a client finds the respective pieces of the data file with other Bittorrent users.

Download files like with a download manager

The principle of the transfer is similar to a download manager. First, the client creates a local file, which is then composed of various individual file segments (chunks). The fact that the tracker knows the currently available download sources means that the client does not have to constantly search for new sources and thus achieves speeds far higher than are possible with other file-sharing networks. Incidentally, Bit Torrent itself does not offer a search function for files and only knows download sources that are reported in the respective torrent file or on the tracker.

File sharing with bittorrent is basically legal. You can also use it to offer your own videos from the last vacation, for example. Bittorrent and the client tool Azureus are ideal for this.

Most common errors and notifications:

Connection reset by peer

This error always occurs if the connection to the tracker or to a client was terminated prematurely. The problem usually resolves itself when you reconnect.

Operation timed out

This error message occurs when a client wants to connect to a tracker, but one of the computers is overloaded or is no longer accessible. If you get the error message more often, check if your seed is online and if the tracker is still working. If you get the error message during the download, you should check the send settings in Azureus under "Tools, Configuration Assistant".

Problem connecting to tracker

This message means that the client cannot connect to the tracker. The reason for the message can be an incorrectly configured firewall, a router or a proxy server that blocks the connection attempt. The tracker may be temporarily unavailable or overloaded, or the network connection may not be configured correctly. You may also be excluded from the tracker because, for example, you only load files but do not offer anything yourself.

Not authorized on tracker

If your client reports that your IP address is not authorized on a specific tracker, it is a non-public tracker, i.e. a closed user group. You are then not allowed to access the tracker. Either you log on to the tracker's website as a user, or you search for a public tracker.

Failed hash check

You can safely ignore the message. Part of a file was identified as faulty during the review and is reloaded.

Bad file info

This means that the torrent control file is corrupt . To ensure that you receive intact torrents while surfing, save the file in the browser by right-clicking with a right-click and "Save target as".

There are a number of client programs for Bittorrent. There are differences between the individual tools not only in terms of operation, but also in terms of functional equipment and, above all, in terms of speed.

BitTorrent software


With the help of the open source client Azureus you can usually achieve a higher transfer speed than with other clients. The reason: the Bittorrent network only develops its full potential with optimal settings. And no other client makes these settings as easy as with Azureus. In the "Tools" menu you will find the menu item "Configuration" for setting numerous options. The client also offers a wizard that makes it easy for less experienced users to make optimal settings. With this you indicate, for example, how you go online and where Azureus should save the downloaded files.

Bit Comet

This English-language client provides numerous functions. This includes, for example, the option of starting several downloads simultaneously and assigning separate priorities to each file. Of course, the upload and download speed can also be limited. An automatic optimization of the connection settings should achieve the best possible transfer rates. An internal rating system is used to block Leechers who only load files but do not offer any files themselves.

Bit tornado

In addition to Azureus, this client is quite recommended. The software offers various setting profiles for selection in the lower area of ​​the program window. Alternatively, you can define settings such as the upload rate and the number of parallel uploads manually. When loading, the tool shows a number of useful information about the tracker and the connections and determines the download time.


The client original comes from the network developer Bittorrent itself. The tool is available for Windows , Linux and Mac-OS X. Some users are sometimes taken with the economical features, but the handling of the tool is outdated and uncomfortable. Because the program does not offer any advanced setting options for the network options, it is not recommended in practice. In particular, there is no possibility to limit the bandwidth used by Bittorrent. As a result, the entire downstream and upstream bandwidth is used in many cases.


Shareaza is the all-round tool for exchanging files. In addition to the Gnutella exchange, it supports file transfers via Emule and Bittorrent. The freeware can be adapted to the bandwidth of your internet connection. In addition to extensive media management and a built-in player, there is a chat function. On the manufacturer's website you will find numerous skins that give the tool an individual outfit. Good: Shareaza has decent presets and is therefore quickly ready for use.

Shareaza has a useful search function with query options for music, videos and images. Compared to Azureus and Bit Comet, however, the tool only offers limited functions. It is therefore primarily suitable for users who want to cover several networks.