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What you MUST know about free P2P software
Ankur Jain
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July 25, 2007

Ever wonder how your friends have all the latest music blaring on their iPods while you're still trying to get your hands on the CD? Or how they managed to get the coolest videos right on their PC, while you didn't even know where to look? Chances are, they've downloaded them using free P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing software.

The popularity of these products has multiplied over the years, with millions of users using them across the globe. Simply downloading the application and installing it on your PC allows you to share and access photographs, music, videos, movie, software and almost anything else with users the world over.

But how do you get yourself plugged into what is often described as the 'future of internet networking'? Here's how:

How P2P file-sharing works

In peer-to-peer networking, all user computers are connected to a network and at any point of time any computer can act as a server and another computer can use its resources and act as a client. What this means is individual users can connect to each other directly, without need for a central point of management.

P2P file sharing software is based on this protocol. When you install P2P software such as BitTorrent, Limewire or Kazaa on your computer and access the internet, it connects to other computers using the same software and you can download anything that other users are sharing. This allows you to search across thousands of computers for the song, software or game that you would like to download.

For example, Person 1 downloads LimeWire and installs it on his PC. Person 2 has the same software installed on her computer. Person 1 enters the name of the file he is looking for into the program and clicks on 'Search'. The software then finds the file on Person 2's computer (only if she has allowed the file to be shared). Person 1 can now download the file directly from Person 2's computer.

What are the options? Do I have to pay for them?

Limewire, Kazaa, BitTorrent, Napster are a few of the most popular P-2-P services, all of which require the user to download and install software from their website.

Napster was one of the first softwares on the P2P architecture, but it is now a subscription-based service and can only be used for downloading music.

Limewire and Kazaa both come in two versions -- paid and free services. If you opt for the free service, you might have to deal with the advertisements that may come up depending upon your browsing habits. Free service may also come with slower download speeds (who cares for high download speed if the internet connection of the common man in India is slower than the degraded download speeds provided by these P2P service providers).

Besides this, the free subscription may also have limited search options. Paid subscription for these P2P applications is a good choice if you have a good internet connection and do not mind spending a few hundred rupees as a one-time subscription fee (Limewire � $18.88; Kazaa � $29.95)

BitTorrent comes free to download, but you may need to pay for some of the downloads you make.

Some facts about P2P networks:

~ When you're connected to file-sharing programs, you may unknowingly allow others to copy private files you never intended to share. Set up the file-sharing software very carefully. If you don't check the proper settings when you install the software, you could open access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, like your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, or other personal documents.


~ You may download material that is protected by the copyright laws, which is illegal. You may download a virus or facilitate a security breach. Or you may unwittingly download pornography labeled as something else.

~ Parents may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be inappropriate for them. Most P2P clients provide content filters that may be set to avoid your kids from accessing inappropriate content online.

~ Beware of spyware. Some file-sharing programs not only install themselves but other software known as spyware as well. Spyware monitors a user's browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Sometimes the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected. Spyware can be difficult to detect and remove, so before you use any file-sharing program, you may want to buy software that can prevent the downloading of spyware or help detect it on your hard drive.

~ Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program. Although your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files, computer security experts suggest you avoid files with extensions like .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.

~ There might be an application you wish to buy, but would like to try using it before paying for the software. If the application doesn't offer a free trial period, you might find a copy of it online along with the authorisation code for trial purposes. This however is illegal, and not recommended.


~ These may help promote your work. If you are an amateur moviemaker or budding software professional, you may share your work through this P2P network, getting feedback and help from other users.

~ You may search for older versions of a software or an old video or song that is no longer available on the official websites.

Some of these P2P networks may violate copyrights and may transfer viruses and ad ware to your PC. We are not promoting the use of any P2P network through this write-up.

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