BitTorrent Magnet Links Explained
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Anyone following the BitTorrent scene has been noticing some interesting developments lately and three new technologies in particular have stood out. A couple of them, DHT, PEX, are new ways of finding peers (users with copies of the file you want to download) without relying on the old BitTorrent tracker system. These are very important to the actual downloads but work mostly hidden from the user who may not even now when they kick in.
Magnet links, on the other hand, are a different story. They have been around for quite a few years now, yet most people have started noticing them only recently, notably since the Pirate Bay implemented them. And now that the world's first BitTorrent indexer, which relies solely on magnet links, has showed up
, more and more people may find themselves wondering how these links work and what are their advantages over .torrent files, which are still in wide use, if any. '.torrent' files
For years, BitTorrent clients, trackers and indexers have relied on .torrent files to store information on the files shared with the popular p2p protocol. These files are stored by indexing sites and are used by BitTorrent clients to connect to the tracker sites. The files hold several types of data, a URL of the tracker site, names for the files it shared, as well as hash codes of files.
All of this is used by the client to connect with peers that have the files in the torrent, or portions of them, and also to ensure that the downloaded data is accurate. This system has several disadvantages, some technical, but one of the biggest is that BitTorrent indexers have to store the .torrent files on their servers, which leaves them vulnerable to legal threats if the content shared happens to be infringing despite containing no actual infringing data by themselves. Magnet links
Magnet links though are just links, they have no files associated with them just data. The links are an evolving URI standard developed primarily to be used by p2p networks. They differ from URLs, for example, in that they don't hold information on the location of a resource but rather on the content of the file or files to which they link. Technically, magnet links are made up of a series of parameters containing various data in no particular order. In the case of BitTorrent, they hold the hash value of the torrent which is then used to locate copies of the files among the peers. They may also hold file name data or links to trackers used by the torrent. You can check out the entry
on Wikipedia for a more detailed technical description.
With magnet links, BitTorrent indexers don't have to store any file at all, just a few snippets of data leaving the individual client apps to do all the heavy lifting. In fact, magnet links can be copy-pasted as plain text by users and shared via email, IM or any other medium. For the indexer sites, the allure is clear, using magnet links makes it harder for them to be accused of any wrong-doing in court. Theoretically, magnet links should not have any disadvantages for the users over .torrent files either. It would also potentially make downloads faster as it would enable the clients to download from peers which have identical files but with different names, for example. Current limitations
In practice though, since the technology is still being actively developed, some kinks still creep up. Up until very recently, many of the major BitTorrent clients didn't support magnet links at all. After the Pirate Bay introduced them
, this is no longer a problem, but there are still things to work out. Indexer sites haven't agreed on a single link format, so it’s up to the clients to support the various implementations. And for the users, the experience isn't on par with using plain .torrent files yet. For example, magnet links on the Pirate Bay don't have any additional data on the torrent other than its content so when the link is opened in uTorrent, for example, the torrent won't have a name or list the files in it.
This leads to a second problem, without knowing the contents of the torrent, uTorrent starts downloading it directly in the default location, preventing users from selecting a custom location or selecting just some files in a multiple-file torrent. These are likely to be just temporary set-backs, the recently-launched TorrIndex, the world's first magnet link-only BitTorrent indexer, is listing links which have additional information like tracker URLs and the torrent's name. And with broader support from BitTorrent clients and indexers, magnet links will eventually replace .torrent files sooner than you might expect.Update
: As of January 2012, The Pirate Bay has switched to magnet links as the default
option and may use magnet links exclusively eventually. Most BitTorrent clients also support magnet links now. On February 28, 2012, The Pirate Bay started using magnet links exclusively
Some of the most popular BitTorrent clients which support magnet links,
for Windows: uTorrent
is available for download here
is available for download here
is available for download here
for Mac OS X: Transmission
is available for download here
for Linux: Transmission
is available for download here
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|Comment #1 by: Bob on 27 May 2010, 02:26 UTC|| reply to this comment|
cooooooooool, let's get this going and post some links!
|Comment #1.1 by: Bonnie on 03 Jun 2011, 14:11 GMT|
> In fact, magnet links can be copy-pasted as plain text by users and shared
> via email, IM or any other medium
So can any link to a .torrent file.
I do it all the time.
|Comment #1.2 by: ColonelBrowntrousers on 17 Sep 2011, 21:23 GMT|
> So can any link to a .torrent file.
> I do it all the time.
But a .torrent file needs a tracker, unless you're using purely DHT, and a tracker requires a copy of the torrent file, thereby putting its owners at risk.
You did read the article, right?
|Comment #1.3 by: P3 on 03 May 2012, 20:13 GMT|
> In fact, magnet links can be copy-pasted as plain text by users and shared
> via email, IM or any other medium
Possibly, But HOW do you find out which is the URL ? of all the numbers ?
And how do you transfer the numbers to (for instance) uTorrent ?
|Comment #1.4 by: RE on 03 Apr 2013, 00:23 GMT|
Should be noted, that the technology is more developed currently than the article says. Now, when you add a magned link to your torrent client, you should be able to select the download destination at first. When the download is started, your client will download a small portion of metadata (usually measured in kb), which contains stuff like torrent name, file names, hashes etc. When the meta is downloaded, you can choose ie which files you want to download. It's quite awesome in the current form but still, it could use some refining and it could be bit more user friendly.
|Comment #2 by: eli on 12 Jul 2010, 01:19 UTC|| reply to this comment|
this is great. i just tried it from piratebay but does seeding still work cos mine didnt seem as if it was uploading
|Comment #2.1 by: ColonelBrowntrousers on 17 Sep 2011, 21:24 GMT|
Seeding definitely will still work, but you won't always successfully connect to other peers. Are your ports open?
|Comment #3 by: dark on 03 Aug 2010, 04:36 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Not a review or an opinion but a question.
How do I get Firefox to recognise the Magnet link file type?
I tried using one on TPB but my browser just wouldn't have it.
Ordinary torrent files are simple to download by comparrison.
|Comment #3.1 by: anon on 14 Apr 2011, 13:46 GMT|
open utorrent and then go to options and associate magnet files with it
|Comment #4.1 by: Mark on 13 Aug 2010, 14:59 GMT|
I think you need electrical currents for that...
|Comment #4.2 by: Anon on 18 Oct 2010, 09:10 GMT|
Just google magnet link generator, it's the first result (as of today). Paste the torrent hash on that site the click generate maganet link, it'll automatically generate a magenet link for you.
|Comment #4.3 by: Cidex on 10 Apr 2011, 04:57 GMT|
Fffing magnets! How do they work?
|Comment #5 by: samuel on 14 Feb 2011, 22:56 UTC|| reply to this comment|
its a good one but the bit torrets are realy slow
|Comment #5.1 by: ColonelBrowntrousers on 17 Sep 2011, 21:25 GMT|
They're as slow as the upload speed of the peers you're connected to. I use private sites and my download is usually maxed out.
|Comment #5.2 by: smuk on 11 Apr 2013, 23:22 GMT|
I find that torrents usually run a decent speed. Several hundred KB/s in most cases.
|Comment #6 by: Matt on 17 Sep 2011, 06:56 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Excellent info and very clear explaination! Thanks!
|Comment #8 by: Anonymous on 13 Jan 2012, 20:20 UTC|| reply to this comment|
First used a magnet link just now, then decided to find out what they were... Bit silly but no harm done. Now I don't have to delete my .torrent files, so not bad at all.
|Comment #9 by: Shihan on 13 Jan 2012, 23:01 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Thank you for the info. Always wondered what the difference was and shied away from magnet links. Happier to use them now.
|Comment #10 by: Jill on 14 Jan 2012, 21:57 UTC|| reply to this comment|
"Theoretically, magnet links should not have any disadvantages for the users over .torrent files either. It would also potentially make downloads faster as it would enable the clients to download from peers which have identical files but with different names, for example."
Not quite. The hash for a bittorrent magnet link (urn:btih) is a hash of the "info" section of the torrent file. It's not a hash of the payload file(s) that you're actually interested in. So even if someone else has the same file under the same name, I don't think it will work unless they also have the same "info" section stored in their client. non-torrent file sharing can find individual files based on their hash, but I don't think torrenting can.
|Comment #11 by: stopaskingformyinfo on 16 Jan 2012, 18:30 UTC|| reply to this comment|
There is no date on your article! In which millennium was it written? Geez... you'd think it would be such a simple thing.
|Comment #11.1 by: Guest on 19 Jan 2012, 02:16 GMT|
top of article
|Comment #11.2 by: tails04 on 16 Apr 2012, 01:38 GMT|
Jeeezzz... You think opening your eyes and reading before making a * comment would be such an easy thing.
|Comment #12 by: Guest 1 on 16 Jan 2012, 22:23 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I don't like magnet files because all the little metal pieces keep getting stuck on them and they are hard to clean.
|Comment #12.1 by: Eraser on 10 Feb 2012, 21:26 GMT|
No kidding! I downloaded a magnet link and it erased my hard disk!
|Comment #13 by: someone on 29 Feb 2012, 03:39 UTC|| reply to this comment|
update: TPB removed .torrent links... Only magnet now =(
|Comment #13.1 by: Sad :( on 04 Mar 2012, 14:33 GMT|
This is very sad. I use a NAS server for download and it does not support magnet links ;(..
Downloading to my computer is not an option when i only have disk space on my NAS with wifi access.
Is there a way to create/extract a torrent file somehow?
|Comment #14 by: Pentacle on 29 Feb 2012, 05:31 UTC|| reply to this comment|
As of Wed, Feb 29th, The Pirate Bay has switched to using magnet links exclusively.
|Comment #15 by: Marty on 29 Feb 2012, 14:52 UTC|| reply to this comment|
First off I'm not using utorrent. I'm using rtgui on a server. I have not tried the conversion from hash to link yet, while it's another step that is livable. The real problem for me is that I go through the lists of available torrents and save the .torrent file for later to prioritize the stuff I'm downloading. It looks like it's not going to be easy to do this now.
|Comment #16 by: El Turco on 29 Feb 2012, 16:08 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I'm using windows xp sp 3 with utorrent. When i try to open the magnet link file with firefox a windows pop up but does not allow me to choose a program to download the file with. With Google chrome nothing happens, anyone can help?
|Comment #16.1 by: flashone on 02 Oct 2012, 05:51 GMT|
Very simple. What do I do,, I go to TPB and select what I want. Right click on the magnet icon and select open window, the pop up window opens and at the top U can see the magnet URL adress, Control-C it (copy) it over and close window. Open uTorrent and from File menu select Add torrent from URL, a little windows pops up, Paste the adress over and click-Ok.. keep an eye on a little running icon to the left of pop window and wait till stops revolving, the click Ok and is done... Ur file will start downloading fairly fast. Try selecting files with more peers than leechers, obviously. Good luk. PS maybe U got wait for TPB to comeback alive again... Also a bit later after the file is completed uTorrent will show U the file in Red saying that it is not completed, but it is, I guess this extra information is needed to add so other peers can see the file and proceed to download... , U will asked to do a Force-rechek, U do that (right click on file), Will proceed to download some more stuff and it will tell is done, after a while.
|Comment #17 by: Karamia on 29 Feb 2012, 17:18 UTC|| reply to this comment|
* the new system, the noobs just want to download without even thinking.
|Comment #18 by: eldarion on 29 Feb 2012, 21:06 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Ktorrent also support magnet links
|Comment #19 by: rage on 29 Feb 2012, 22:18 UTC|| reply to this comment|
all the people so excited about magnet links are idiots, why would you prefer magnet links over torrents, when torrents give you the choice to uncheck unwanted files from downloading, when you download a magnet link you have to do a full download of the folder without knowing what files are inside, so when you download viruses don't start crying
|Comment #19.1 by: Saucer on 03 Mar 2012, 19:03 GMT|
I can uncheck the files I dont want just fine in Utorrent bud. Don't know where you get your information from ;-)
|Comment #19.2 by: Alicia on 04 Mar 2012, 20:33 GMT|
Oh yah I didnt even think of that. that really sucks!
|Comment #19.3 by: dragcon22 on 05 Mar 2012, 10:41 GMT|
you need a new torrent program because i use uTorrent and i can choose to slip downloading any file in the torrent when using magnet links. i have been using magnet links from thepiratebay since before they decided to switch completely over.
|Comment #19.4 by: Kaicanoe on 09 Mar 2012, 18:50 GMT|
Using Bittorrent, I can select the files I want to download. I.E., I don't want the sample .avi so I unclick it. The main file is left to down load. Same with the .txt & .jpg files that sometimes come with the download.
Magnet makes it a lot simpler for me. Can still select the folder to download to. Seems to me that the downloads are much faster too.
PirateBay made a positive change for me.
|Comment #20 by: jaywes on 05 Mar 2012, 11:42 UTC|| reply to this comment|
what of those who wants to save and share files personally with family...friends?
|Comment #21 by: Ace in the hole on 05 Mar 2012, 21:02 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Using .magnet files is less secure than .torrent files as you need DHT to be enabled in the torrent client to use .magnet files and this can be/is used to link to fake servers on the Internet and used to get your IP Address. You will all start moaning when the copyright letters start appearing. Torrent files are much better and secure for the peers downloading (who want to stay hidden) as you can stipulate and limit which trackers you are connected to. Magnet files are more secure for the sites linking/indexing the .magnet files and they can sleep a lot easier at night. Staying secure and limiting the servers you connect to cannot be achieved using DHT which is open to all! :-(
|Comment #22 by: Arun on 06 Mar 2012, 15:14 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Very good. I didnt know what a magnet link was and i was wondering why magnetic links are given in torrent sites and i usually ignore these links. But now I started using magnetic links. Thanks to you.
|Comment #22.1 by: Jody on 18 Mar 2012, 11:53 GMT|
Peer Guardian might be able to help block undesirable sites.
|Comment #23 by: eggy on 11 Mar 2012, 09:58 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I am an avid collector of the old black and whites (public domain) and have been using magnet links now for six weeks. I find down loads generally faster and less complicated to edit and save.
|Comment #24 by: Garz on 12 Mar 2012, 14:46 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I'm trying to figure out how to use magnet links in the way I used .torrent files. What I do to make it easier for my wife is to have her right-click a torrent and save the file to a folder on a mapped drive on the home server. The uTorrent is always runningn on the home server looking for .torrents to show up in the folder and then start up the download.
Seems like there should be a way to do the same or similar with a magnet link.
|Comment #25 by: dominatro on 12 Mar 2012, 23:59 UTC|| reply to this comment|
one of the issues ive been having while using bitcomet is that the file gets downloaded but the file extension gets left out in the name...by adding it bak the file then works fine but u have to kno what the file type is...hopefully that small issue will be fixed soon on a newer version of bitcomet
|Comment #26 by: libellus on 13 Mar 2012, 20:24 UTC|| reply to this comment|
If you use uTorrent, you can change the preferences>UI Settings>When Adding Torrents to display a content window that "shows" all the files in advanced mode. While you can no longer select or deselect files to download from that window (you can still do it after the torrent gets going), you CAN still use that window to specify a custom download location before the link begins to DL. Cheers.
|Comment #26.1 by: Tromper on 17 Mar 2012, 20:28 GMT|
* TPB for only using magnet links. Life is hard enough - my utorrent won't handle magnets when configured for an anonymous VPN and the new utorrent won't work with my VPN either - not without enabling DHT or UDP Trackers which defeats the purpose of being annonymized. They just suck. Magnet links are of no advantage whatsoever to the consumer.
|Comment #27 by: river on 19 Mar 2012, 20:59 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Great info, was really amazed by the downloads starting automatically, thought they had found a way to have a file (.torrent) opened by utorrent automatically, but this much more clever!
|Comment #28 by: new_york_night on 20 Mar 2012, 07:42 UTC|| reply to this comment|
So, ultimately, is a magnet link more anonymous / more secure than a regular torrent?
|Comment #28.1 by: Ace In The Hole on 23 Mar 2012, 22:15 GMT|
MAGNET FILES = are not anonymous as you need to be connected to the DHT, so they are less secure for the end user who is downloading the files and sharing files. MAGNET FILES = are better (safer) only for the sites distributing the Magnet links as it makes it harder 4 the sites to be held accountable. Peer Guardian/Block only works for sites and fake servers that it is aware of and is not 100% guaranteed. Read the info on their site = Peer Guardian/Peer Block is probably about 90-95%, but it only takes you to connect to 1 fake server and for the authorities to press their advantage to make an example out of you! You cannot use MAGNET files and stay hidden completely (that's the whole downside) - in time people will see the true downside of MAGNET files, when facing the heavty fines from the copyright brigade :-((
|Comment #28.2 by: Lucian Parfeni on 29 Mar 2012, 06:42 GMT|
"MAGNET FILES = are not anonymous as you need to be connected to the DHT, so they are less secure for the end user who is downloading the files and sharing files."
How is this any different than a .torrent file. Most BitTorrent clients use DHT by default. Even if they didn't, you're still using a tracker that anyone else can connect with, at least with the Pirate Bay. Unless you were using a really, really private tracker, you can't know where you'll get your files from.
There's no such thing as anonymity with BitTorrent thanks to the simple fact that its p2p sharing, as in peer-to-peer. And those peers may be anyone. The best you could do is use a VPN or TOR.
|Comment #28.3 by: sux2bu on 03 Jun 2012, 20:46 GMT|
That's not true, you don't need DHT to use magnet links, at least not in utorrent.
I also download from PB with utorrent 1.8.5 and have DHT disabled in the client and have never used it.
|Comment #29 by: Ja on 28 Mar 2012, 06:49 UTC|| reply to this comment|
There is no such program as uTorrent. It's called "µTorrent."
|Comment #29.1 by: Rick Sparks on 27 Apr 2012, 19:28 GMT|
µTorrent.com doesn't seem to be working. Try utorrent.com instead.
|Comment #31 by: xx on 30 Apr 2012, 07:02 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Great article. I don't care for the progression though. Let the .torrent counter culture begin here. Death to the magnets!
|Comment #32 by: DDEEDEE on 03 May 2012, 18:13 UTC|| reply to this comment|
MAGNET ARE VERY STICKY TO EACHOTHER SO YEA
|Comment #33 by: KickMeElmo on 01 Jun 2012, 20:24 UTC|| reply to this comment|
Could use to mention that Deluge is available for all three main platforms and handles magnet links perfectly. With the newer versions, I prefer deluge over all other clients even when multiplatform isn't necessary. Glad they finally worked out the kinks.
|Comment #34 by: Mandrake on 03 Jun 2012, 02:04 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I've been using magnet links for some time now without any problem and not of what you described under Current Limitations has ever happened to me. I see files listed and other information and it appears indexed with a name in my torrent client. In fact nothing is different to torrent files except a delayed period of a few seconds in which the client must retrieve the information to display. I have tested magnet links on many different indexing sites including the one you mentioned.
|Comment #34.1 by: CTX on 12 Jun 2012, 04:39 GMT|
You realize this article was written in 2010. So now would be the time that those limitations would have been over come as he said.
|Comment #34.2 by: KalBloke on 22 Jun 2012, 06:34 GMT|
Hi Yours is a really simple and good comment. Please recommend the torrent client. In my uTorrent v3.1.3 I dont see any file lists when TPB is my source, so I am not able to deselect at all.
Which is your client? please help.
Are magnet links faster than torrents in downloading?
Thanks in advance, for your reply!!!
|Comment #35 by: Cazza on 06 Jun 2012, 15:39 UTC|| reply to this comment|
What is torrent meta data how do I get it?
|Comment #36 by: Guest on 13 Jun 2012, 17:12 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I fail to see the big difference between:
1. All the torrent info is stored on a server, in a database, and sent as a very SMALL TEXT FILE.
2. All the torrent info is stored on a server, in a database, and sent as a very long URL. (The same as the info in #1, but all on 1 line)
Since the URL can hold far *LESS* info... you know less and less about the torrent and its matching file.
Magnetic torrents sound like it's all either "no big improvement".... or "a big step backwards."
|Comment #37 by: Picaro on 13 Oct 2012, 20:41 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I have Trend Micro Titanium and keeps blocking my entrance into Vuze or Bit Torrent, any knows how to disable TMT or disable and then turn on again+
|Comment #38 by: anyon on 09 Dec 2012, 22:34 UTC|| reply to this comment|
I thought I'd try out Vuze (I currently use uTorrent). When I saw all the add ons I would be forced to agree to in order to run the program, tool bars and 3rd party garbage, I clicked disagree but the * program still installed. WTF?
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