Best torrent client: 8 we recommend

2nd Aug 2013 | 11:00

Best torrent client: 8 we recommend

Top torrent picks to help you find and download files at the best speed

It may only be 12 years old, but BitTorrent has already become a hugely popular technology, an efficient peer-to-peer file sharing protocol which makes it quick and easy to distribute files across the internet.

There's been considerable controversy along the way. Torrents are often used to share copyrighted material, for instance, while others see them as a great way to spread viruses.

The technology has many legitimate applications, though. You might use torrents to, say, fetch a massive Linux distribution, grab a file from Amazon's S3 storage, or access more than a million files at the Internet Archive, faster and more reliably than with a conventional HTTP download.

There's only one problem: most browsers won't download torrents natively, so you'll need a specialist torrent client to help. Which one? Keep reading for eight of the best torrent clients around.

1. uTorrent

Download uTorrent

Despite being compact and extremely lightweight, uTorrent still comes packed with support for all the standards you'll need (DHT, SSL, SSL, UDP, protocol encryption, UPnP and more), along with plenty of extras (RSS feed reading, and a Boss key to hide the program quickly).

utorrent

None of this power gets in your way, though. Various tweaks and advanced options are on offer if you need them, but if you prefer a simple life then the default settings are generally fine, and simply clicking a torrent link is usually enough to download it.

While this mix of power and simplicity has helped to make uTorrent the most popular torrent tool around, ads and bundled adware have also earned it plenty of criticism. The program makes multiple attempts to install toolbars and other unnecessary extras during setup, for instance: pay close attention during installation if you want to avoid this.

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2. qBittorrent

Download qBittorrent

QBittorrent is a capable tool which aims to provide a free, open source alternative to uTorrent. For the most part it does very well, too, and provides builds which can run on Windows, Linux, Mac and more.

qBittorrent

The program is relatively lightweight and straightforward, a well-designed interface making it easy to find your way around. The built-in search engine helps find you what you need, a click or two will start the download, and a few minutes of exploring the program tabs and right-clicking various items will get you up to speed with the basics.

You don't always get the extras available elsewhere; there's no mass of scrolling graphs to highlight current download performance, for instance. QBittorrent delivers the core functionality you need, though, and more (DHT, PeX, encryption, UPnP, RSS reading, IP filtering, torrent creation), and it's a great choice for more experienced torrent users.

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3. MediaGet

Download MediaGet

There's a lot of jargon surrounding torrents, but if the regular clients seem a little intimidating then you do have alternatives. MediaGet, for instance, focuses so much on its integrated search engine that initially at least you may not realise it's a torrent client at all: it's all very simple and straightforward.

MediaGet

This can't last for long, of course, and once you're downloading the program presents a more familiar screen, with tracker details, peer lists, your file status and more. You can access a few more advanced features, too, setting upload and download speed limits or creating new torrents of your own.

MediaGet is really about ease of use, though, so even its "detailed" screen can be hidden, if you'd prefer. All you'll then see is the basic download status, no more complex than a browser, before you get to view or play the file once it's arrived.

On balance you'll probably be better off taking a few minutes to learn a more advanced client, but if you're simply not interested then MediaGet could be a very acceptable alternative.

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4. BitTorrent Free

Download BitTorrent Free

Should BitTorrent Free be in this list? It's certainly a capable torrent client, lightweight, fast, easy to use, with convenient features like the ability to play media files before they're fully downloaded.

It's hard to get too excited about any of this, though, because essentially it's just a rebranded version of uTorrent. The same code, from the same team, just with a different colour scheme.

BitTorrent

If you're trying out torrent clients, then, make sure you choose one or the other, rather than both. And again, pay close attention during the installation process, because by default this will install plenty of software which you don't really need.

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5. Vuze

Download Vuze

While most torrent clients concentrate simply on finding and downloading files just as quickly as they can, Vuze (the program formerly known as Azureus) is a little more ambitious.

Vuze

You can play HD video, for instance, and integrate the program with iTunes. A host of plugins allow you to add all kinds of advanced features, from scheduling tools to RSS feed readers and generators, all kinds of remote control options, even a Sudoku game. Pay £19.90 a year for Vuze Plus and you can even get antivirus and DVD burning (as well as the removal of all ads).

This does help to make Vuze one of the more heavyweight torrent clients, of course, even if you do manage to avoid the unnecessary software it wants to install during setup. But if you like the extensibility its plugin system provides than Vuze could be very appealing.

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6. Opera

Download Opera

If you'll only download torrents very occasionally, then you may not have to install a specialist torrent client at all. The Opera browser has built-in torrent support, and treats the files just like any other download: click a link, choose an option or two, and you can watch its progress in the Downloads manager.

Opera

This won't necessarily be the best solution. You may still have to navigate some technical terms (the first Preferences dialog lets you choose the "Incoming listen port", for instance). And you won't get the advanced features and optimisations available in specialist torrent clients, which means your files may take a lot longer to arrive.

If you're interested in performance, then, or want to make use of torrents on a regular basis, then we'd look elsewhere. But if you value simplicity above all else then Opera is ideal.

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7. Transmission-Qt Win

Download Transmission-Qt Win

As an open source torrent client, you can be sure that Transmission won't inflict toolbars, ads or other irritations on you. The program does have plenty of advanced features - magnet links, DHT, encryption, UPnP port forwarding and a whole lot more - but it still manages to be one of the most lightweight and efficient torrent tools around.

Transmission

PC users will quickly notice one rather significant problem, though: the developers have focused on Mac and Linux builds, and there isn't a standard Windows version available.

Of course the other advantage of open source projects is anyone can take the code and reuse it, and fortunately that's happened here.

The core Transmission code has been rebuilt for Windows under the name Transmission-Qt Win, and while the interface is a little basic when compared with some of the competition, if you're familiar with torrent technology then you should have no real problems at all.

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8. Tixati

Download Tixati

If you're tired of the adware so often bundled with other torrent clients, then Tixati will come as a refreshing change. Installation is fast and easy, no unwanted extras or endless "Decline" buttons to hit: it's just all very straightforward, more about helping you than making money for its developers.

Tixati

The program itself is smartly designed. There are plenty of advanced features - PEX, DHT and Magnet Link support, RC4 encryption, scheduling, RSS - but it's not overly complex.

Pop-up alerts explain how and why to set up items like bandwidth throttling, for instance, system resource use is minimal, and clean and clear displays keep you in touch with all your downloads.

Factor in its excellent performance, too, and Tixati a great choice for torrent beginners and old hands alike.

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