Thursday, February 7, 2008

BitTorrent tips&tricks

Throttle your BitTorrent downloads on a schedule

BitTorrent downloads and uploads can hog a lot of your internet connection's bandwidth, especially if you're sharing popular content. You could just exit uTorrent whenever you want to ensure you've reserved a sufficient portion of your bandwidth for your web surfing and email, but if you're like me, you'll forget to start it back up—meaning you'll end up delaying your downloads (most likely until you want whatever was supposed to be downloading, at which point you will slap your forehead).


To remedy this situation, uTorrent comes with an excellent and simple Scheduler feature that you can access through the Preferences (go to Options -> Preferences, then find Scheduler in the sidebar). Tick the box next to "Enable Scheduler" and you'll see a grid of green boxes light up. The grid runs Monday through Sunday, midnight to midnight (or 0:00 to 23:59), one box per hour. Here's how it works:

  • Dark green boxes indicate that uTorrent will download and upload at full speed (or whatever you've set as its full speed).
  • Light green boxes indicate limited download and upload rates.
  • White boxes indicate that uTorrent will not download or upload any content.

I've always got a little bandwidth to spare on my connection, but I certainly don't want uTorrent hogging my bandwidth while I'm working, so I set the Scheduler to limit speeds from 8am to midnight every day. During the wee hours of the morning, when I'm very unlikely to be at my computer, I open the flood gates and give uTorrent unlimited upload/download speeds. Also, since I try to stay away from my computer for most purposes on Saturday, I keep uTorrent at full throttle. See the screenshot above to see what this sort of schedule would look like.

Like I said, my connection can handle a little bit of bandwidth bleeding all of the time, so when I'm running at limited rates, I set my upload speed to 5 kB/s and my download speed to 15. Handy, huh?

Set global bandwidth limits

global-limits.pngIf you never want uTorrent to grab an unlimited share of your bandwidth, you can set global up/down limits by going to the Connection section of the Preferences. The settings are fairly self-explanatory—just set your max upload and download rates (in kB/s), or choose 0 to keep the rates unlimited.

Ensure a good share ratio without wasting extra bandwidth

As I mentioned in the beginner's guide, an important part of BitTorrent is sharing, and a good member of the BitTorrent community gives as much as he/she takes. In fact, many sites, especially private trackers, keep a close eye on your share ratio and may even ban you if you don't keep your ratio above a certain point (i.e., if you are a "leecher"). I'm in total agreement of the whole share-and-share-alike attitude, but once I've shared an equal part of what I've downloaded, I don't want to waste too much extra bandwidth on that torrent.


Rather than constantly checking your torrent ratios so you can remove them as soon as they cross the 1.0 barrier, go to the Queuing section of uTorrent and find the "Seed While" section. There you can set a goal ratio for a file you're sharing, then set how much bandwidth uTorrent will allocate to the torrent once that goal is reached (in the screenshot, for example, uTorrent will stop sharing the file after its share ratio reaches 110%).

Protect your file sharing privacy with PeerGuardian2

PeerGuardian2 is an IP-blocking application that keeps a defined list of computers with blacklisted IP addresses from connecting to your computer. For our uses, the intent of PG2 is to keep anti-P2P organizations from tracking your downloads. Before anyone gets a false sense of security, running PeerGuardian2 will not protect you from being spied on outright, and like one reader pointed out last week, an IP blocker is only as good as its blacklist. However, a lot of people still like using PG2 and consider it a good layer of protection—however thin—against being spied on by anti-P2P organizations. In general, there's nothing bad about PG2, so running it probably won't hurt anything (though one reader said it blocked a torrent tracker he was connected to). But if it turns out that someone was keeping track of your BitTorrent downloads, don't blame ol' PeerGuardian2.

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