Imagine being on the autobahn with the accelerator down and then you realize that you are driving a wrecked car. The plight is not so uncommon on the information superhighway too.
Torrent users would attest to the fact that half of our time is spent looking for ‘healthy’ torrents and the other half trying to download (and a bit of upload too) at the maximum speed. The former is mandatory; the latter thankfully is within the realm of tweaking.
If you are the one who thinks that your torrent download speeds could do with a boost then keep reading. Below, you’ll find a few tips on how to speed up torrent download speed. And if you’re new to Torrenting, don’t forget to check out the official MUO Torrent guide.
Your ISP is where it starts
Check the maximum download and upload speeds allowed by your ISP. Most ISP’s have specific bandwidths for both uploads and downloads. Obviously your torrent download speed won’t cross the cap set by the ISP. Go over to Speed.io for broadband speed test and this article by Tina on ways to increase your connection speed. There are many other bandwidth testers like DSLReports which is included in the speed test within uTorrent.
Choosing the right BitTorrent client
Use the better clients out there like uTorrent, Vuze or the BitTorrent client itself. Wikipedia lists about 51 of them supporting the BitTorrent protocol. The choice of client used should always be updated to the latest version. The screenshots here depict uTorrent. The settings should be similarly configurable for other clients too. Mac users shuld also check our Transmission vs. uTorrent post
Go for healthy seeds and peers
A peer is any computer participating in the download and upload of a torrent file. A seed (or seeder) is anyone who has one complete copy of the file being shared across the torrent network. A leech (or a leecher) is the person who does not have the complete file yet but has joined the network to download it. A leecher becomes a seeder when he downloads the entire file and then shares it across the network.
For high torrent speeds, the best bet is in numbers. The greater the number of seeders, the healthier the torrent and the better the chance of higher speeds. The rule of thumb says to choose the torrent files with a high number of seeders and preferably lesser number of leechers i.e. a higher seed-leecher ratio.
Get through the firewall
Firewalls can block all incoming BitTorrent connections coming through. To ensure otherwise, a firewall should be manually configured to accept the connections and let it through the client. Windows XP has the Windows Firewall. Configure the firewall installed to accept the connections by checking the BitTorrent client on the allowed list i.e. Options – Preferences – Connection – check Add uTorrent to Windows Firewall. Also, check the Windows Firewall exception (if you keep it enabled) in your client too. Shutting down the firewall is not recommended as it leaves the computer open to attack.
Note: If the home computer is behind a router, it also should be configured through the feature called Port Range Forwarding to enable torrent traffic. The router documentation should have specific information on this.
Limit your upload rate
A peer to peer network is all about sharing alike, but an unlimited upload rate hits the download rate too. Using the speed tests, find out your maximum upload speed and then set your client’s upload rate (Global Upload Rate in uTorrent) to about 80% of your maximum upload speed. You can also try varying your upload speeds – keep it high initially and then gradually bring it down towards the middle of the download.
Note: Mind the speed units – it may be given in kilobits per second (kb/sec) or kilobytes per second (kB/sec). 1 kilobyte = 8 kilobit
Go to a different port
The default port for the BitTorrent protocol is any between port numbers 6881-6999. ISPs throttle traffic on these ports as BitTorrent sharing involves high bandwidth usage. It’s easy to configure a different port in your torrent client. Use some number above 10000 to get around ISPs and also avoid problems with other applications. By default, the uTorrent port is randomized each time it starts. Set a specific port by not enabling the Randomize Port setting.
Increase the number of Max Half Open TCP connections
This figure specifies how many connections a torrent client should attempt to establish simultaneously at any given time. Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) or newer, limits this to a default of 10 as a barrier against virus multiplication. But that’s a bummer for torrent speeds as torrents too need a large number of simultaneous connections.
A patch has been available for a while from LvlLord which modifies the TCPIP.sys file in Windows to allow a higher number of TCP connections.
After running the patch, you have to set the number of connections in your torrent client. For example, in uTorrent go to Options – Preferences – Advanced – net.max_halfopen. Set any number from 50 to 100. But see that net.max_halfopen is set lower than the value set in TCPIP.SYS. Always check if it is still patched because Windows updates sometimes overwrite it.
Experiment with Protocol Encryption
Some ISPs love to act like Big Brothers and constrict bandwidth for P2P protocols. Protocol Encryption in most of the torrent clients helps to override this bandwidth shaping. Enable outgoing protocol encryption and put a checkmark on Allow Incoming Legacy Connections.
With protocol encryption, ISPs find it difficult if not impossible to detect that the traffic is coming from BitTorrent. Experiment with enabled, disabled and forced options because you could be getting better speeds with encryption disabled. Non-encryption makes a torrent connection compatible with someone who is not using encryption but as a minus it makes the torrent detectable to an ISP with a bandwidth restricting policy.
Bandwidth and connections
Your BitTorrent client’s settings options will let you enter figures for ““
Global maximum number of connections gives the maximum number of connections that a BitTorrent client can make for any P2P exchange. Setting this too high does NOT mean higher speeds. Setting it too high would take up useless bandwidth and too low a figure would miss out on peers. For my 256kbps connection, I have a setting of 130.
Maximum number of connected peers per torrent gives the maximum number of peers that a BitTorrent client can connect to for any P2P exchange. Experiment by setting this number close to the available peers for a particular torrent. For my 256kbps connection, I have a default setting of 70.
Number of upload slots per torrent gives the maximum number of peers that a BitTorrent client will upload to for any P2P exchange. A low setting may affect downloads. For my 256kbps connection, I have a setting of 3.
uTorrent has a Speed Guide which handily calculates the figures for a particular connection.
Some common sense
Most BitTorrent clients allow us to view the individual files in a download. You can selectively disable the download of files you don’t think necessary.
Familiarize yourself with the customization settings of your particular client available in the Help files or at the website FAQs.
Some useful resources:
Optimizing the speed of torrent downloads is a lot of trial & error and a bit of patience. Do you have some tips to speed up torrent download speed? Any that you have successfully tried out? Maybe we can put some wind beneath the wings with your comments.