What Is A Magnet Link And How Does It Differ From Torrents? - gHacks Tech News

What Is A Magnet Link And How Does It Differ From Torrents?

If you have visited a Bittorrent website or torrent search engine lately you might have come upon magnet links that were offered on the torrent download pages. Chance is the magnet link did not really bother you since the torrent link was offered as well on the download page so that it could be downloaded and added to the Bittorrent software.

A closer look at the standard process of downloading files via torrents reveals several factors and parties that are necessary for this. The user needs a Bittorrent client like uTorrent or Vuze, a torrent file that is usually downloaded from a Bittorrent server which functions as a tracker and torrent provider and of course other seeders and leechers of that torrent.

A Bittorrent magnet link contains all the information needed to start downloading the files from peers directly. It is a server-less way of retrieving the right information to start downloading the requested files. A magnet link therefor is theoretically all that is needed to download files from other peers in the Bittorrent network. Magnet links can be distributed by email, messaging and other forms of communication but are most often found on the torrent sites that usually offer both torrent and magnet links to their users.

A magnet consists of several parts:

  • magnet: (This is the magnet link identifier)
  • ?xt=urn:btih: (Defines a Bittorrent Info Hash, the Edonkey identifier would for instance look like this xt=urn:ed2k:)
  • 5dee65101db281ac9c46344cd6b175cdcad53426 (The content hash)
  • &dn=name (The name of the file)

The full magnet link would look like this magnet:?xt=urn:btih:5dee65101db281ac9c46344cd6b175cdcad53426&dn=download. Detailed information about additional Magnet Link parameters are listed on Wikipedia. One useful parameter that has not been mentioned yet is the as= parameter which contains encrypted information about a download source. This speeds up the process of finding the first peers.

Main Advantages of Magnet Links

The main advantage for Bittorrent indexers is that they do not have to store the torrents on their servers anymore which could be beneficial for them in several ways. It could reduce the pressure from the media creation industry and reduce hardware infrastructure expenses thanks to less tracking and downloading.

The end users on the other hand benefit from Magnet Links as well. All they need is the link to start downloading the files which makes them independent from torrent indexers. It also allows them to distribute the information more easily. Torrent indexers remain on the other hand the main source of information for new files that are available for download.

Magnet Links use DHT

A tracker less environment should raise a question of identification. How can a download be initiated ff there is no tracker to inform the Bittorrent user about other users who download and seed the file? The answer is DHT, Distributed hash tables. DHT is enabled by default in popular clients such as uTorrent or Vuze. Without going into to much detail, the hash of the magnet link is used to find peers using DHT.

Torrent files

Torrents are still essential for Bittorrent as they contain information about the download that need to be present in the swarm. The only aspect that is changing is the way the torrents are distributed which is shifting from Bittorrent trackers and indexers to the server-less DHT procedure.

Many popular Bittorrent clients support magnet links already. This includes uTorrent and Vuze for Windows and Transmission for Linux and Mac systems.

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Comments

  1. Scott said on June 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm
    Reply

    Thank you, Martin, I always wondered what it was, but never took the time to find out.

    As always, I appreciate your site!

    1. Martin said on June 6, 2010 at 3:14 pm
      Reply

      Scott you are welcome, I also did not bother before but decided it was time to take a closer look at magnet links to understand the concept.

      1. John said on March 2, 2012 at 12:50 am
        Reply

        How do I change the default application to open magnet links? It trys to open Frostwire which i no longer have. i have uTorrent if that helps

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on March 2, 2012 at 12:58 am
        Reply

        Well you can change the default application in your web browser. In Firefox, you go to Firefox > Options > Applications Tab, locate Magnet there, select Use Other and browser for uTorrent instead.

  2. Billy Hill said on June 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm
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    Excellent! I didn’t realize that utorrent had finally added support for magnet links until I read this article. Tested it and it works. Thanks!

    1. Martin said on June 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm
      Reply

      I’m running beta versions of uTorrent most of the time, cannot really remember when they have added support in the release versions. But good that they do, its my favorite Bittorrent client.

  3. rosa said on June 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm
    Reply

    This is the first article I’ve read in this blog. Very nice information! I’ll be trying this one since I’m using uTorrent for a long time now.

    I’ll be reading your blog from now on. Keep it up!

  4. Griffin Idle said on February 22, 2011 at 7:51 am
    Reply

    Torrent Magnet URL shortening tool. http://mgnet.me

    Supports open api.

    For example magnet:?xt=urn:btih:N5VHIUX2EMQ3DB6 -> http://mgnet.me/@chromeOS

  5. Salil Tambat said on March 5, 2011 at 9:00 am
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    That was indeed a clear explanation of what I was looking for. Simple and straight. Thanks Martin…Doubts cleared.

  6. sushant said on March 31, 2011 at 12:50 pm
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    sir , i am using bittorrent 7.2.1 for downlaoding, usually when i download movies , i always find magnet link , but now i cant find this link

    what the problem ?

  7. Alice said on June 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm
    Reply

    > The main advantage for Bittorrent indexers is that they do not have
    > to store the torrents on their servers anymore

    So they don’t store the torrents… they DO have to store the magnet links.

    That’s a big difference?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm
      Reply

      Yes because a link is not a file.

      1. derp said on July 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm
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        unfortunately thats the same argument used to say .torrent files were safe. a .torrent isn’t supposed to be a file either – its meant to be a hyperlink. the equivalent to a .LNK file on windows containing just pointer information to an EXE file and which icon to show.

        having any kind of ‘index’ towards copyrighted material could potentially be treated as ‘making available’. thats not my argument its their argument so dont think i’m the twat :P
        im playing devils advocate here but while i dont see this as a legal solution i do find it a technical solution. it just means though you can get criminalized for having 100 bytes of information on your computer.

      2. tetridae said on August 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm
        Reply

        This is actually an answer to “derp”.

        A hyperlink states what it links to. A magnetic link however is way more obscure. It is clear for anyone seeing a hyperlink how to get there – just paste it in a browser. How to prove that a magnetic link – which is a hash ( a binary number ) – is actually a link to something useful? It might as well be a piece of whatever binary file you may have on your computer. Maybe a cryptographic key or part of a compressed or encrypted file.

  8. Jonathan said on December 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm
    Reply

    So in short: the magnet link is better the normal torrent one?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm
      Reply

      They definitely have advantages over .torrent files.

  9. cp sharma said on December 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm
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    thaks martin
    now i know a little about magnet link
    what about virus?

  10. Marpen said on January 14, 2012 at 7:59 am
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    How can I change magnet links into torrent links? As of today piratebay have changed their files into magnets links and I haven’t been able to download anything via torrific.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 14, 2012 at 10:37 am
      Reply

      You can still download torrents from the Piratebay, just use the second download option.

  11. Marpen said on January 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm
    Reply

    Yes, I can still download from piratebay but I don’t want to. I have a proxy conflict which doesn’t allow to download through external software such as Bittorrent or utorrent. Coming back to my question, do you have any idea on how to change magnet links into torrent links? It would be of great help if you can help me out on this one :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm
      Reply
  12. Mike said on January 17, 2012 at 11:39 am
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    Hi there,

    I’ve tried my first magnetic link, probably like some people on here, via TPB. The process works it seems, but it still actually puts a .torrent file on my PC. Is that as expected ? I don’t know, but I expected a .torrent file to be dropped from this process.

    Thanks for your help and useful article.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm
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      Mike, magnet links basically download the torrent using the information contained in the link. So this is intended.

  13. zAne said on February 22, 2012 at 4:14 am
    Reply

    Magnet Link is faster than a normal torrent file?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 22, 2012 at 9:38 am
      Reply

      No it is not, it is the same, maybe even a bit slower on start up.

  14. Shingabo said on February 29, 2012 at 4:20 am
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    What are the risk of using magnet links vs regular torrent files ? Can I be track down and arrested if I download a mp3 or movie?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 29, 2012 at 10:20 am
      Reply

      The risk is the same.

  15. Jesterogue said on February 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm
    Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for clarifying the difference. I’m a “dumb” user of torrents. If you have the time/inclination, could you possibly elucidate on how torrents actually work and how the distribution system is changing. I know the basics but wouldn’t mind having a comprehensive knowledge of it.

    Thanks again.
    Jester

  16. Inventika Solutions said on March 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm
    Reply

    Here’s a video which shows how to download individual files from magnet links in uTorrent [The Pirate Bay] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCIclko7Bc8

  17. Hemendra Kumar Saini said on March 26, 2012 at 3:07 am
    Reply

    Is there any search engine which directly allows you search magnet files directly.

  18. Josh said on March 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm
    Reply

    Martin, nice post. Clear and concise.

    Hemendra Kumar Saini , I’m working on a magnet search site: http://www.magnetdl.com – it will be up within the next week. Bookmark the url and be the first to use it :) I’ve spent 4 weeks making the site and it’s 95% complete. Just a few minor tweaks to do before I go live.

    1. John said on May 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm
      Reply

      Looks exactly the same as the rest of your sites, perhaps you should stop scamming people and do something constructive

  19. magnet2torrent said on April 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm
    Reply

    In response to the Marpen post above: The answer is yes.
    We are providing a free service that allows to convert a valid magnet link to a torrent file.
    Our service has been running for just over a week now and already 1000’s of magnet links have been converted.

    magnet2torrent.me

  20. Guest said on June 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm
    Reply

    I fail to see the big difference between:

    1. All the torrent info is stored on a server, in a database, and sent as a very SMALL TEXT FILE.
    or…
    2. All the torrent info is stored on a server, in a database, and sent as a very long URL. (The same as the info in #1, but all on 1 line)

    Since the URL can hold far *LESS* info… you know less and less about the torrent and its matching file.

    Magnetic torrents sound like it’s all either “no big improvement”…. or “a big step backwards.”

  21. Rahul kangjam said on October 28, 2012 at 9:16 am
    Reply

    i use torrent instead of Magnet Link b’cos it define myself to choose my own selective file location and also can able to see file which include to be on downloaded

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  23. Bulla said on December 29, 2012 at 5:37 am
    Reply

    when I click on magnet link to download,I get the following errors/display:

    1.First pop up window
    There was a problem sending the command to the program
    2.second pop up widow after first is closed:
    Unable to open this helper application for
    –b4833fec571.(.some other letters and numbers………).Around+The+world+in+80+days+20
    The protocol specified in this address is not valid.Make sure the address is correct and try
    Using Tixati which has
    In Tixati on settings there is a link Meta-info which has certails fields like drive to save etc and also a column Magnet link format for transfer pop up menue in which the following is filled in “magnet:?xt=urn:btih:[hash]&dn=[name]&xl=[bytes]&fc=[files]”
    There are 2 more columns below that which requires/read
    “append a magnet link to this text file” and “format (start with time/utime)…..
    I am not sure what information,if any is required to be filled in and if so when and how and isn’t automatically picked up?

  24. Fay said on May 1, 2013 at 11:10 am
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    Thanks martin, it’s helpful, you’re amazing, man!

  25. J7N said on December 21, 2013 at 10:41 am
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    I’ve downloaded a few torrents via magnet links, while I mostly use torrent files, and I don’t fully understand where the data is coming from. DHT is disabled in my µTorrent node. However, in the cases that I tried, the torrent (hashes of data blocks) was always promptly retrieved from somewhere.

    Does DHT get enabled implicitly to facilitate this? How is that the torrent is found so quickly without a known host for it? The magnets were from TPB.

  26. carl said on May 28, 2014 at 10:25 am
    Reply

    hello guy, i use for convert magnet link in .torrent, with http://www.magnetorrent.com ,is very good for me, bye

  27. Max said on May 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm
    Reply

    hey,, thanks for the good info I have a question in mind,, if I accidentally delete a download from client in middle of downloading is there any way to recover it? Because as far as I remember it was possible with .torrent files but is this possible with magnet links?

  28. J7N said on May 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm
    Reply

    Max, successfully loading a magnet link should still result in a .torrent file being downloaded and saved to the directory where µTorrent stores these files. It needs checksums recorded in this file to function normally and verify the integrity of individual pieces (the hash in the magnet link represents the whole set of files, hashes in the torrent are for each piece). If you perform a Remove (not Remove and Delete Torrent), the file should still be on your disk. Probably without trackers, so you need to connect to the DHT to find peers.

  29. Max said on May 28, 2015 at 8:30 pm
    Reply

    J7N thanks for the information again,, I took liberty of trying both approaches, remove, and Remove and Delete Torrent, remove worked exactly as u described I got its file from a location on my hard drive and added it again by double clicking on it and I got everything where it was before, but Remove and Delete Torrent deleted that torrent file from where it stored it on disk, I followed following steps,
    I- I visited the same site, added same torrent again but it started from 0%
    2-This time I performed Remove (just remove) on freshly(but same) downloaded torrent file via magnet link
    3-Then I again added the torrent file from location on my hard drive and to my surprise it checked and started again from the very point, where it was on the download before it was removed and deleted(torrent). This means if someone did Remove and Delete Torrent and they remember the URL where they downloaded it from,, they can still recover progress by following above mentioned steps, I hope this is of some worth. again thanks 4 your lead.

  30. Tntmister said on September 15, 2015 at 11:59 pm
    Reply

    Why is the example url Borderlands 2?

  31. berend said on June 26, 2016 at 4:48 am
    Reply

    i have seen some site that switched completely from torrent to magnet links

  32. Geert said on April 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm
    Reply

    It does no longer use trackers like the old days. A simple tiny code is enough to download GigaBytes of Data.

    [Magnet link removed]

    Copy paste from magnet to the end into your torrent client, and GigaBytes should stream in, with included to decompress files which decompress into more GigaBytes, well you understand.

    This example contains many music files for musicians only, the average people don’t study doing creation of music. But trust me it works. I tried it.

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