What is a magnet link and how do I use it?

Peer-to-peer networks are essential for distributing large files over the Internet. They lighten the load on the servers and create an extensive distribution network. In recent years, magnet links have started to replace .torrent links. But what are magnet links and why should you use them?

Why do torrents exist and how do they work?

Let’s say you want to distribute a single large file. There are many legitimate reasons for doing this, including distributing Linux distros (it’s in the name) to users who will install Linux on their home machines.

Traditionally, the organization that creates the disk image stores the data on its own servers, and users download the file using a web browser. For large amounts of data, this creates problems for the downloader, which must keep the browser window open, and for the host server, which may consume unreasonable bandwidth to meet the request. As such, direct downloads are often slow and prone to failure.

With traditional peer-to-peer torrenting, the large file is split into thousands of individual pieces. Users upload a file with a .torrent extension. The torrent file is passed to a client such as Transmission or qBittorrent, which downloads each piece of the file from other users while simultaneously downloading the pieces to your machine to other clients. Trackers, as the name suggests, keep track of where parts are located so your customer can download the file.

With a popular file distributed to and by a huge number of users, download speeds are fast.

Torrents have some drawbacks. First, trackers are not always fresh, which means that the record showing the location of individual parts is outdated.

Magnet links are not files and do not rely on trackers. The link includes all the information necessary to locate the elements of the file you wish to download. For this reason, magnet links are extremely long.

A magnet link always starts with the prefix magnet:followed by a cryptographic hash of the exact filename, a display name, several possible tracking locations, and download sources for the file pointed to by the Magnet link.

Besides the issue of outdated trackers, magnet links are considered superior to torrents because they don’t force users to download a potentially suspicious torrent file to their computer. Nor do they rely on a tracker as a central authority. Magnet links are considerably easier to share and can even be pasted into a standard SMS message.

Uploading files using a magnet link couldn’t be easier! Make sure you have a torrent client such as Transmission, qbittorrent or uTorrent installed on your PC, and just click on the link. Because of its “magnet:” prefix, your client will start downloading immediately.

Due to their advantages, magnet links are becoming more popular than torrent files for distributing large files. Whether you share files using torrents or Magnet, you should only use peer-to-peer networks for legal purposes, such as sharing Linux distributions or other open-source software.

Harry D. Gonzalez