Magnet links versus torrent files

   Posted by David Kirk in Internet

Several infamous torrent websites have decided to move to magnet links exclusively instead of .torrent files. Here we provide a comparison and contrast between these two file types and describe why these sites have ultimately decided to make the switch.

The most important thing that users will need to understand is that the major torrent sites will continue to function in the same manner. Downloading files is still goal, and all modern torrent clients have had the capabilities of using magnet links along with .torrent files for quite a while. Although most users will use them the same, important differences do exist.

The difference in .torrent files and magnet links

To explain this better, let’s use an example. Let’s assume that I go on a popular torrent website looking to download a linux distro. By using torrents instead of downloading the file directly, I likely can download it faster, help other people download it faster, and save the linux distributor some bandwidth cost.

When my torrent client reads a .torrent file, it learns how the file collection is divided and where it can download all the pieces. The .torrent file just provides the directions for the torrent client on how to find and download all the chunks of data. Once downloaded, the client rebuilds the chunks into my working linux distro. Since .torrent files are simple data files, they are easy to read, find and scrape. Therefore, they are copied and shared quite prolifically.

Magnet links accomplish the same sharing of data without using an actual .torrent file. Instead of an actual .torrent file sitting on a server describing the data chunks, the magnet link itself describes the methods. In fact, magnet links can use methods of obtaining the file other than or in addition to those of torrents. The magnet link gives the torrent client enough information to reach out to other users to grab the data needed to start the downloading process.

Thus, magnet links allows users to get the download information directly from other users instead of through an actual .torrent file.

Why the move away from .torrent files?

A .torrent file is a file that sits on a server somewhere. The files take up space. For somebody to share a .torrent that server must be up and available to all parties. With torrent index sites frequently under attack for their potentially illegal uses, an available server is not guaranteed.

By doing away with the .torrent files, magnet links takes the dependence of the server out of the equation. By using the magnet link, users can get information from other users directly. Additionally, by this process the user increases his or her chance of the torrent process working in case the original tracker is not public or closed.

Advantages of magnet links over .torrent files

1. Torrent index sites will have lower bandwidth and space requirements.
2. Easier to share just a link than to share a link to a file on a server.
3. Magnet links should be updated where .torrent files may not be.
4. Better chance of success even if a specific tracker is not available.
5. Ability to obtain download from alternative, non-torrent methods.

Disadvantages of magnet liks over .torrent files

1. Initially they are slower as connections are made to other peers to find the data.
2. It’s more difficult to download specific files using magnet links versus torrents.

 

About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • Aman Arora @ Tech Blog

    Nice explaination about magnet links bro, I didn’t even knew thats good. I always that torrent providers are spamming links on their site.

  • Warren

    I always wondered what the difference between the two is. Thanks for sharing this helpful information, as I got a feeling my daughter would soon ask me this question.

  • dude

    @Warren, you should be a proud father!

  • Red Johnson

    I found some explanations of magnet, but this one is the easiest one to understand.

    Many thanks!