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BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing protocol designed to reduce the bandwidth required to transfer files. It does this by distributing file transfers across multiple systems, thereby lessening the average bandwidth used by each computer. For example, if a user begins downloading a movie file, the BitTorrent system will locate multiple computers with the same file and begin downloading the file from several computers at once. Since most ISPs offer much faster download speeds than upload speeds, downloading from multiple computers can significantly increase the file transfer rate.

In order to use the BitTorrent protocol, you need a BitTorrent client, which is a software program that accesses the BitTorrent network. The client program allows you to search for files and begin downloading torrents, which are in-progress downloads. Most BitTorrent clients allow you to resume torrents that have been paused or stopped. This can be especially helpful when downloading large files.

For a list of BitTorrent clients, view the .TORRENT file extension entry.

Published: 2008

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Definition from the PC Glossary