For many of us, torrent files and the BitTorrent protocol are synonyms with movie and software piracy. However, we can download movies for free, and stay 100% legal. We only need to choose our movies carefully. Let's see how to download movies for free with torrent files, and how can we make sure we are entirely legal.
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Choose a torrent client
To download movies, programs, or anything else with torrent files, we need a torrent client. It is the program that will open the torrent file, manage the necessary connections, and make sure the files download without any data corruption.
On PCsteps, we have already seen BitComet, which combines a download manager and a torrent client.
The qBittorrent installer won't attempt to change our browser's homepage and the search engine. Neither will it download any third-party apps and adware.
It's a simple, lightweight, and powerful torrent client.
After the installation, it's a good idea to activate the search function, by selecting View -> Search engine.
The program will prompt to install the Python Interpreter. We click on "Yes".
After the installation, we get a new "Search" tab in qBittorrent.
If we don't get the tab, there was probably something wrong with the Python Installation. We can try downloading Python from python.org.
Installing the latest Python manually, re-launching qBittorrent, and selection "View" -> "Search" should do the trick.
Why not use uTorrent / μTorrent or BitTorrent?
uTorrent / μTorrent is by far the most popular torrent client. It's no accident that qBittorrent is marketing itself as a "μTorrent alternative", not once...
...but twice on their homepage.
BitTorrent (the app, not the protocol) is essentially the same program with uTorrent / μTorrent from the same company (BitTorrent.inc), just with a different name.
So, why shouldn't we use these popular torrent clients?
Well, both uTorrent/mTorrent and BitTorrent are notorious for attempting to trick us into installing third-party applications, such as the awful "Trovi Search"...
...or the useless Dashlane password manager.
Also, on March 2015, uTorrent / μTorrent came bundled with the EpicScale "riskware", which would use our CPU power to generate digital currency for the EpicScale corporation. These kinds of programs can slow down our system to a crawl, and increase the energy consumption.
These kinds of programs can slow down our system to a crawl, and increase the energy consumption.
Even if we are careful during the installation, the program's interface is lousy with ads.
Yes, there are ways to remove these ads. However, there are better torrent clients, free, open source, and without third-party crapware. In our opinion, uTorrent / μTorrent doesn't deserve the time of day.
How to download movies for free with Torrent
A great advantage of qBittorrent is the search function. We no longer need to visit shady torrent sites, full of ads, pop-ups, fake download links, and whatnot.
Of course, we can also use torrent files and magnet links, if necessary.
Find and download movies through search
If we want to watch the 1968 version of "Night of the Living Dead" in 720p quality, we can just search for it.
qBittorent allows us to sort the search results by the number of seeders. Seeders are users, just like us, that have already downloaded the full movie, and they are now seeding it for us to download.
The more seeders, the faster the movie will probably download, depending of course on our Internet speed. Movies with zero seeders might never download.
Once we have our search results, it's just a matter of double-clicking one of them, to start downloading it.
We can change the download folder if we wish, and then we click "OK".
The Torrent is added to the transfer queue. If there are enough high-speed seeders, soon it will top-up our internet connection.
We can also click the "General" button, to get more information about the download...
...and we can exclude parts of the torrent from the "Content" tab, by unchecking them. Most of us don't need all those .nfo, readme.txt, samples, etc.
Download movies with a torrent file or magnet link
Let's say that we want a very specific version of the "Night of the Living Dead" that we can't find through the search function, but found it on a torrent site.
In that case, if there is an icon of a horseshoe magnet, we can click it to download the movie using its magnet link.
Just make sure to ignore any deceptive "Download" and "Fast Download" ads.
The first time we attempt to download with a magnet link, Chrome will show us an "External Protocol Request" to launch qBittorrent. We can check the "Remember my choice" checkbox never to see this message again.
If we are using Firefox, a simpler message will ask us to select an application. The "magnet" option will launch qBittorrent, which is associated with magnet links.
Finally, if a torrent site doesn't support magnet links to download movies, we can always download a torrent file of a few kilobytes. We can choose to open it directly with qBittorrent.
Whichever way we choose, once the file downloads completely, we are free to watch the movie with the movie player we prefer. VLC is an excellent choice.
Remember to seed the Torrent
Once the download is completed, we shouldn't immediately remove the torrent from qBittorrent or shut the application down.
It is essential for the BitTorrent protocol that we leave the torrent client running, and "seeding" the torrent.
You see, when we download movies through a torrent file or a magnet link, we aren't downloading from a website or server. We are downloading from other torrent users, possibly with different clients, that are "seeding" the torrent.
If nobody is seeding a torrent, that torrent is dead, and nobody can download it anymore.
Proper BitTorrent etiquette dictates that we should leave a torrent seeding until we have uploaded at least double the data we have downloaded. For a 700MB movie, we should let it seeding until we have uploaded 1,4GB.
Of course, seeding takes a toll on our limited upload speed, and if left without a limit, it could seriously slow down our internet connection.
So, it's important to visit our torrent client's settings (Tools -> Options for qBittorrent)...
...and set an upload limit. 50KB/s is fine for most ADSL connections with a 1Mbps upload.
If we have a faster of slower upload speed or can leave the PC open to seed while we are not using it, we can change the upload limit, or remove it altogether.
Just avoid "hit-and-run". On publicly shared torrent files, it's just bad form. If we use a private tracker, though, which requires an account to download movies and files, doing a hit-and-run could get us banned.
How is it legal to download movies for free?
As we mentioned earlier, there is a way to download movies for free and stay 100% within the confines of the law. We just need to choose our movies carefully.
The only movies that are legal to download for free are movies that are in the public domain. Works in the public domain have their intellectual property rights expired, forfeited, or the property rights are inapplicable.
The 1968 version of the Night of the Living Dead we saw earlier is a famous example of a movie in the public domain. It's 100% legal to download it, or even watch it on YouTube, and colorized, to boot.
This is not the only such movie, though. Any movie before 1923 is in the public domain by default, as well as several movies released later. We can find a list of such free and legal movies on Wikipedia...
...on the Moving Image Archive of Archive.org...
...and on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), among others.
We won't find torrent files or magnet links on the above websites, but we can search for torrents of these public domain movies to download.
Granted, none of these lists will include the Captain America: Civil War or any recent blockbusters any time soon. But the fact is that there are hundreds of movies we can download for free, legally.
What happens if we download movies illegally
Different countries have different laws about the illegal download of copyrighted content by any means.
Germany, for example, is notoriously strict, and an illegal download can bring fines of more than 1,000 euros (about $1,120).
There is also the possibility, albeit slight, that a movie studio can sue an individual for downloading a particular movie.
This, of course, doesn't mean that anyone who downloads movies illegally will end up paying a fine or sued. But you should be aware of your country's laws on illegal downloading.
One way to avoid legal repercussions with torrenting, although still to be used with caution, is by using a virtual private network to anonymize and encrypt your online identity. You should ensure though that the VPN doesn't keep log files, as many do.
Do you prefer another way to download movies for free?
The BitTorrent protocol is only one of the ways to download movies for free. There are also streaming sites and apps that combine torrents and streaming, such as Popcorn Time.
Leave us a comment with your favorite method to download movies for free.
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