P2P: Why Can Downloading Speeds Vary So Much?

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Since file sharing relies on people sharing their bandwidth with others (either download you receive is an upload of another user who shares the data you want), your speed is the result of what others are currently able to offer you. Now, there are two essential bottlenecks:

a) The uploading capacity of most peoples Internet connections is much lower than for downloading. Most ISPs want to provide their customers with high downloading bandwidth, but only provide you with a fracture of that for uploads. Read: You can receive lots of data very fast, but sending stuff to others is remarkably slower in most cases.

b) Especially old and very new and popular files are only shared by a few people (or at least, some parts are not very widespread among the network) and thus, you’re “standing in line” with other users, all waiting to get served with those jummy pieces of data. Or, particularly in very old network architectures such as Soulseek, there is only one source for the file, so you have to wait for your sharing partner to send you stuff.

Also, if there is c) no port forwarding, it could deprive you of some peers, especially if the file is only shared by a few others. In a network such as Soulseek, it can even block you from downloading the file at all, because you have no alternatives to connect to.

But there are also other, very annoying problems that may put the breaks on you:

Many ISPs just love to screw their customers over by throttling P2P file sharing networks in order to discourage you to call them on their “unlimited speeds” advertising. Not only that, but some network administrators actually block all P2P traffic, including things like the World Of Warcraft updater and various other services that rely on such technology. Gotta love it.

You can try to use traffic obfuscation and encryption schemes offered by some P2P clients, but the only really effective way to eliminate such problems is by using a VPN, which will bypass any attempt to slow certain protocols or applications down, and also anonymize you on the network.

If you’re using WiFi, your connection might be slower than what your connection can reach. Try moving closer to your router, or connect your PC directly by cable for maximum speed.

Also, you or someone else in your network may be running another download. Or, in some cases, you might have set the uploading rate in your P2P client too high, clogging up your connection.

So what can you do?

a) When possible, choose files with many seeds and peers; if the ratio of peers versus seeds seems unhealthy, better look for a different torrent. This could mean that at least some chunks of data have not propagated enough among people, and things could take a while. Have a look on how a good ratio looks like on a torrent site: How To Ensure Fast Downloads With Torrents

b) Especially when going for files that are a bit older, port forwarding can be important; you don’t want to loose sources or peers here. Follow through our port forwarding guide to fix this problem: Port Forwarding Tutorial

c) Another alternative might be to switch to Usenet. There, all downloads are lightning fast, however it isn’t completely for free. You can read more about Usenet on our website: Usenet: An Introduction

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