Downloading Torrents on a Chromebook

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One of the biggest complaints about Google’s Chromebooks in their lack of ‘regular’ software that Windows and Mac users are accustomed to. While we have long-espoused the virtues of stateless web-based computing, it is an unfortunate truth that if you require specialist software for your job or hobby then a Chromebook would not make an adequate primary machine.

A particular area where Chromebooks have lagged behind traditional computers is in their lack of a functional and reliable BitTorrent client. BitTorrents used to be vilified as the domain of illegal music downloads and pirated films, yet they are increasingly being used by reputable companies as an effective and efficient method of distributing software. If you’re not sure what a torrent file is, try reading MakeUseOf’s free Torrent Guide eBook.

Has the Chrome OS finally managed to catch up to its rival operating systems to provide a high-quality BitTorrent client? MakeUseOf investigates…

JSTorrent

JSTorrent is not free, but it is the original and arguably the best BitTorrent client available in the entire Chrome Web Store.

Available for €2.29, the app can handle files up to several gigabytes in size and can comfortably run on the lower-end Chromebooks which use an ARM processor rather than an Intel one.

The app is equipped with a media player which can stream files as they are downloaded, and has the ability to download files directly into either a Chromebook’s Downloads folder or onto an attached external hard drive.

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jstorrent-screenshot

Despite critics’ beliefs that Chromebooks don’t work offline, this app is yet another one to add to the ever-growing list that do work when you’re not connected to the Internet. The offline functionality means you can view and manage your torrents at any time, which is useful if you are dealing with a long list of concurrent downloads. Finally, as you would expect with any traditional client, JSTorrent allows you to select which files within the torrent you want to download and also supports private trackers.

A January 2014 update saw the introduction of a new, clearer user interface along with sortable columns and computer standby prevention. The developer has indicated they plan to continue adding new features over the coming months with the aim of making the app mirror a typical desktop client experience as closely as possible.

Using the app is simple and straightforward. Once you find the link to a torrent you want to download, just open JSTorrent and paste it into the search bar. Alternatively, you can download a torrent file directly onto your machine and open it using JSTorrent, which will then begin the download process.

add-to-jstorrent

If you don’t want to pay for the app you can find the latest beta version on GitHub, though you will be required to unpack an extension every time you reboot your device. It also goes without saying that a beta version may also have bugs and issues that are not present in the main stable release on the Chrome Web Store.

Bitford

If you don’t want to pay for JSTorrent and you are not comfortable using GitHub, there is no need to worry – you still have options available to you.

Bitford is slowly gaining popularity as an alternative client, though with approximately 5,000 users it still trails well behind JSTorrent which has almost 20,000 users.

Like JSTorrent, Bitford runs on JavaScript – the consequence being that there is no need for additional components to be installed before it works and there is no requirement for a locally saved native app.

The extension is designed to allow playback of media files while they are being downloaded and also provides you with the ability to save files both locally on your Chromebook and in your online Google Drive space. One drawback is that the extension does not currently support magnet link integration.

The app has an extensive user interface, giving experienced BitTorrent users plenty of customisable settings whilst still working ‘out of the box’ for less confident users or those who have no interest in tweaking and modifying the settings.

Any Others?

Which BitTorrent clients do you use on your Chromebook? Have you downloaded torrent files with either JSTorrent or Bitford? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

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14 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Ed

I’m intrigued by these offline apps.

Does the Chrome Web Store readily explain which apps are offline apps?

Also, I know I asked this a few months ago (no one had a clear answer), but how are offline apps installed to a Chrome OS system?

I know the web apps are basically bookmarks to websites, but offline apps, are they installed on the system in similar fashion to the way Linux programs install files in different folders throughout the system? Are offline apps basically “portable” apps and installed in one folder? Are they in a folder of HTML 5, CSS 3, and javascript? Inquiring minds would like to know. Perhaps this would make a good article.

Once we start seeing a good selection of super-thin, fan-less Chromebooks, I will be in the market for one.

Thanks,
Ed

Jason L

Yes, there’s a little thunderbolt that indicates an app is offline. I don’t know where they are stored, however.

Reply

Judy

What about A VPN to avoid copyright violation problems ?

Guy M

Not sure if you’d need a VPN specifically. You could maybe get away with a service like Unblock-Us.com or maybe even a proxy.

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Wayne

JSTorrent is good, but I use https://bitport.io now. Bitport.io downloads torrents to cloud and they can play them online in HD in browser.

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Eric Donawick (edonawick@gmail.com)

I currently have been using Bitford on my 13′ Toshiba Chromebook CB35, It runs very well and up until a day or so ago, everything ran and downloaded perfectly. I’ve built another gaming rig and as when you buy a new hard drive, you must also install an OS on to said hard drive. I’ve tried at LEAST 4 different OS torrents ranging from “Windows 8.1, OSX, and Linux”. But it automatically stops around 42%-50%…. It’s very unfortunate, I’m trying Ubuntu as we speak. I’ve heard very good reviews about JSTorrent but have never tried it. There’s my 2 cents! Happy New Years everyone.

Reply

Geoffrey Boltzer

I made the leap to a Chromebook about a month ago…was skeptical at first, but after a month, I’m a believer. I bought the Toshiba Chromebook 2, CB35-B3340. To address Ed’s comment above, this is a thin, light and fan-less device that weighs less than 3lbs but has a 13″ display (and a good one at that).

I’ve used bitford several times now without any problems whatsoever…it is a minimalist user interface, but that’s OK for me…it is intuitive how to use.

Dan Price

Glad you like it Geoffrey

Reply

Hollie

I cant get bitlord to work properly. Also there arent any options to do anything or delete extra files attached to the torrent. I also am not sure what numbers I am supposed to put in the upload and download spot. I was playing around and changed them, now I dont remember what they were and its not working very well at all. Does anyone know what numbers I should enter in the bottom area.

Dan Price

Bitlord or Bitford? If you’ve messed up the defaults it might be best just to delete it and reinstall it.

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AlkR

Typo: One of the biggest complaints about Google’s Chromebooks “in” their lack of …
please change “in” to “is”. Please correct.
Thanks for great article! Chrome stick will be my torrentputer in near future!

Dan Price

Ouch, thanks!

Reply

zennovice

Golly, these are helpful comments. I had been using [paid-for] JSTorrent for some months – happily – then lost the download-part of it in a ‘powerwash’ [required as a last resort in getting rid of an infuriating intrusive ‘your windows has a virus’ ad – not applicable of course for chromebook]. I’ve trawled around with google for a fix, but will now explore Bitford et al. Thank you.

Reply

Dan Price

So pleased you found it useful. That’s why we have the articles and the comments :)

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