A torrent file is a computer file that can be shared by users in the BitTorrent™ client peer-to-peer network. It allows a user to download a variety of different types of software, raging from entertainment media to anti-virus programs. A good torrent file is one that contains a working, non-corrupted version of the software and has a good seed-to-leach ratio for faster download speeds.
Every torrent file is unique, because it contains the exact date of creation, the name and size of the files and the tracker where it can be found. The tracker is the server through which the different internet peers exchange data. While it does not possess copies of the file itself, the tracker allows clients to exchange information about connections.
These files are managed by a computer program called a BitTorrent™ client. When downloaded, the torrent file is opened through the program and different options may be selected. Some torrents may consist of a large number of individual files, and the user can select which ones to download. Generally, larger torrents with many files suffer from slower speeds, so smaller torrent files are preferred if they contain a desired portion of data.
A peer-to-peer, or p2p, network consists of a swarm of users who exchange pieces of file data. A swarm consists of both seeds and leeches, and the ratio of these determines the speed of the download. A seed is a user who has downloaded the full copy of the torrent file and is allowing other users to download, or leech, it from him or her. A leech, in turn, only has a fraction of the file and needs the seeds in order to gather the full version. The more seeds there are in the swarm, the faster the leeches can download.
Other factors also influence the speed of a torrent file. The user's own download speed as determined by his or her internet provider has the biggest effect. Likewise, the speeds of the peers he or she is downloading from have an impact on downloads. These speeds can waver greatly throughout the day depending on the availability of the tracker and the number of seeds.
Torrents downloaded from the top p2p web-sites are also generally safer than unknown ones, which may contain malicious software. Malicious software can include spyware or hidden viruses, which can infest a computer with persistent advertisements and disable important programs. Using a good anti-virus program when downloading and installing a file is recommended to keep one's computer protected.