Torrenting involves the downloading of files to your computer so you can watch or use them later, while streaming is a kind of real-time feed that you access online but which involves no files being saved on your hard drive. It is similar to the difference between recording a program or watching it live. I will be looking at which method is better to use. You may be wondering what are torrents and how these differentiate completely from streaming. Both streaming and downloading involve a file being sent to the device. The key difference is that a streaming file is simply played as it becomes available, while a download is stored onto memory. If you access a downloaded file later, you do not have to use more mobile data to play it.
Torrenting is a clever way to share large files over a network. This is done through software called torrent clients which allow you to search for content. The clever part is that you do not download the whole file from one place, but rather bits of it from a variety of different users who have that file on their computer. This shares the burden and alleviates the demands on any one server, making large downloads faster.
In return, you are often expected to reciprocate by sharing parts of the downloaded file with other users. Typically, the default is that you share parts of the file while you are downloading it. The problem comes when users download copyrighted material, which is perhaps the most common use for torrenting. From the latest Hollywood blockbuster film to a new album release, it rarely takes long for multiple copies to appear on torrent sites, and in some cases even before the official release. Of course, this is illegal and if you get caught you could face criminal charges because essentially you are stealing the content. There is also the dubious bonus that you could also be downloading files infected with malware, viruses, or ransomware.
However, there are some advantages to torrenting. If there are interruptions with your internet connection or your computer suddenly shuts down, there is no need to start from scratch. Once you are back online, you will continue the process. Additionally, torrenting files are easily accessible, you can easily find and download torrent files. There are a lot of online sources and sites that provide a huge library of quality torrent content.
Streaming involves a user’s computer (or a TV or set-top box) accessing content stored on another device and watching it in real-time via a continuous stream of data. Hence the name. This is how Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, iPlayer, Spotify, and even the videos on this site work. As there are no files to download to your device it is a lot safer than torrenting, at least on the professional services mentioned above.
The downside is that you need a constant internet connection to enjoy the content, and if your broadband is slow you will get the buffering issue where the content pauses while it loads the next part. Some sites will actually let you download content so you can watch or listen to it later – Spotify, iPlayer, Netflix being good examples – but on the whole services restrict users to streaming only. Not all streaming sites are as respectable as those listed above. A quick Google search will bring up various places offering free access to live Premiership Football games, movies, TV series, or a variety of other copyrighted material.
Visiting these sites can grant the content that you seek but beware of messages telling you that you need to download updates to Flash, or any offer to click on links, as this may well be a gateway to malware and misery. Then there is also the moral quandary of watching material that is copyrighted and therefore should be paid for by viewers. Technically, because you are not downloading any copies of files onto your device, the EU courts deem that watching pirated material is not a crime. That honor is reserved for those providing the stream. But be aware that you are still depriving the creator of the material their livelihood, so consider that before you hit the Stream button.
Which is Best?
It appears that streaming seems to be the safer and more honorable method. It is best that you avoid torrenting movies, games, music, software, and anything else you know to be pirated material. It is not worth the risk and is illegal. Instead, enjoy the myriad of content available for free on YouTube or sign up for a proper streaming service. The content is safe, varied, and you will not be looking over your shoulder. You will also benefit from the better quality of the content you are watching.