These days more and more large files are being made available through peer to peer filesharing, also known as P2P, or BitTorrent.
How P2P works is that those who download files also send portions of the files to others.
It’s all automated, so you don’t have to personally press any buttons, but it helps distribute the load where huge files such as movies are concerned.
A special technique
P2P doesn’t work for all files: the person sharing the file has to set it up that way, and those who want to obtain the files have to use (free) BitTorrent software.
How to obtain a movie through filesharing
Examples of movies being released via BitTorrent are listed in the article Share huge files with community power.
If you’d like to try out filesharing you will need a fast Internet connection with good capacity for sending and receiving large files. Don’t try this on dial-up.
Remember: you will be sending parts of files as well as receiving them.
Get the software
Start a download
Then go to an appropriate source and click the Download Torrent link. For example, download an episode of the indie movie Pioneer One.
When you click a link to a torrent your filesharing software should open and start to download the file. If it doesn’t, then identify the small
.torrent file that has downloaded to your Downloads folder and double click it. That should start things going.
The download may take a while as the files are big — Episode 3 of Pioneer One is 1.21 Gb, for example.
Peer to peer in action
As you download the file your P2P software will probably show you how your download is going, how many peers are sending you portions, and how many portions you are sending to others.
As I tested while writing this, my download was arriving from 41 of 59 peers, and I was providing portions of the file to 15 peers.
If you don’t easily see that information check the software’s menus and tools for a status display.
Remember to quit the software and so stop sharing the file once you’ve received the whole thing. While in some countries bandwidth is unlimited, in New Zealand it may prove very costly for you to continue sharing for very long. Sending portions of a file to others is using your monthly allocation just as much as receiving portions.
Peer to peer filesharing reflects the very spirit of community. As a method of sharing large files it works very well. As always, though, check that any files you download are being shared by those who have the rights to do so. And make sure they’re from reliable sources that won’t install malware on your PC.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, April 2011. This article has been modified for publication here.