BitTorrent – Tips & Tricks
uTorrent is currently the smallest, lightest and most feature packed BitTorrent client available. With a file size of barely a megabyte, it’s perfect for even low powered computers like netbooks and there are some versions available for mobile devices as well that allow you to connect to your home PC and check the status of your downloads. It’s even surpassed the popularity of some previous famous torrent clients like Azureus (now called Vuze). Many first time users of uTorrent may immediately hate it because of the slow speeds or the torrents simply refuse to connect to any seeders or peers. There’s a simple reason behind that; unlike a P2P client like say LimeWire where everything is pre-configured, you need to do a little tweaking to get the best out of uTorrent and that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing today. Other than that, we’ll also share some very interesting features uTorrent has to offer which may go unnoticed for many simply because not everyone is an inquisitive geek.
Solving the NAT Problem
When you install uTorrent, the application automatically adds an exception to Windows Firewall so the incoming traffic is not blocked. Despite this, you may still get a little exclamation or a red circle in the bottom right corner of uTorrent and if it continues to remain then you may have a NAT (Network Address Translation) problem. Most ISPs (except a few) tend to block P2P traffic which means most of the ports other than the ones used for the HTTP protocol are blocked. What you’re looking for is a green circle with a little tick mark which means your PC is able to receive incoming connections.
There are two ways around this. The first is the simplest way, by default; UPnP is enabled in uTorrent which automatically maps the port you’ve currently assigned with the router. If the router has UPnP support then make sure it’s enabled. For this, you’ll have to enter the router settings and navigate to that section. Since each router has different features and organizational structure, it’s best if you check the manual that came with it or the site. If you’re trying this at work then you’ll have to check with your network administrator for this although I doubt he’ll be of much help unless he’s already busy downloading quietly.
In case you don’t have a router at home or the UPnP trick is still not working, the second one is a sure fix. The first thing you need to do is pick a port number, any random number generated by uTorrent is fine. Next, check if the port is open by going to Options>Setup Guide. Here uncheck the first box ‘Bandwidth’ and only keep the second one (Network) checked. The default port number will already be in there. Click the button ‘Run Tests’ and it will check if the port is open. If it still reports that the port is blocked then you’ll need to open the port in either you modem or router. Most modems supplied by your ISP will have a feature called ‘Virtual Server’. If you aren’t using a modem and just a router then you should find that option over there as well. To know how to access this ‘Virtual Server’ section, I strongly recommend PortForward.com as it has detailed instructions on how to setup port forwarding on virtually every modem/router in the market. Once this is set, just restart uTorrent and you should immediately see a green circle telling you everything’s ok.
Getting the maximum speed from your Internet connection
Even though your NAT problem is fixed, you may find the speeds aren’t really up to the mark. Let’s say you have a 1Mbps line at home, the download speed that you can actually get is 120kBps but somehow you never get beyond 20kBps. This is because your download and upload limit in uTorrent is set to unlimited by default. In India, most Internet plans are capped at a low upload rate despite of having a high download rate. Think of the upload and download rate as lanes, if both are set to unlimited, uTorrent will automatically divide the bandwidth and give each lane equal preference so automatically your download speeds are halved.
The trick to getting the most out of your internet connection is to cap the upload speed in uTorrent. You can do this by going into Options>Preferences> Bandwidth or you can simply right click the status at the bottom and select the upload speed. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found 9-10kBps to be the sweet spot at my home but it’s not a hard and fast rule. You can experiment a bit and try different combinations to see which works best for your connection. Even after setting that if you’re still getting slow speeds then make sure that torrent has enough seeders or try a different one. There are time when a torrent may show you there are thousands of seeders but you still get shitty speeds which could mean that the people you are connected to are uploading at a slow rate in which case there’s nothing you can do about it.
Not everyone has an unlimited data plan, so for those who rely on the night unlimited plan, uTorrent’s scheduling function comes in really handy. Head over to Options>Preferences>Scheduler and check Enable Scheduler. Now let’s take a simple scenario, I’m on a night unlimited plan which means from 12AM to 8AM, I’m not charged for using the Internet. Each square represents an hour during the day, so from Monday to Saturday, I have marked all the squares white from 8AM to 12AM which means uTorrent will automatically stop any uploads or downloads during this time. Assuming Sundays, you get the entire day to download for free, you can mark everything green. This way, uTorrent will automatically start and stop downloading without the need for your intervention. If you find the browsing speeds drop then you can mark some hours of the day as light green so the bandwidth is limited and you can surf the net properly.
Use Auto-Shutdown to Save Power
A simple but very handy feature which should be used by everyone. You can choose to place the PC on Standby, Hibernate, shutdown when the downloads complete or simply quit the application so that the bandwidth is freed up. This would save you some power as well instead of the PC just remaining on doing nothing.
Maintain a good share ratio
When it comes to torrents, sharing is caring. It’s a good practice to seed the file you’ve already downloaded for sometime at least so that the others have a fair chance of downloading the file. It’s also a good habit since some private torrent sites like Demonoid.com keep a track of your download and upload ratio. Here’s the thing though, once a file is downloaded, uTorrent automatically starts seeding. At some point, you would like to stop seeding the file simply because it’s old or it may be hogging all the upload slots as compared to a newer file that’s being seeded. In this case go the Queuing section in Preferences and instruct uTorrent to stop seeding a file once it has achieved a ratio of 1.0. By default, uTorrent will stop sharing that file once the share ratio reaches 150 percent.
Take advantage of the new Apps feature
The new version of uTorrent includes a new App section which gives you access to more content right in uTorrent. For instance the TED app lets you download all Ted talks or VLC which lets you playback any music or video file you’ve downloaded.