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When I download a file in torrents, the actual download (seen in the Ubuntu 'System Monitor') is a bit more than the download observed in the 'Transmission BitTorrent Client'. Are torrents less efficient than regular downloads? Is this because my torrent client has to talk to a number of other torrent clients to get the file?

Is there a way make this difference smaller, keeping the download speed the same?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Torrents work by trading a few extra bytes downloaded and some extra software complexity, cpu time, upload bandwidth, and additional active sessions in exchange for being able to download the desired bytes much faster.

So it depends on how you define efficiency. If you're primary concern is for transmission size, then torrents are not efficent. If your concern is how fast you get your data, they are great.

Each of the costs I listed in my first sentence are real. They are designed to not be a factor for most users, but in the wrong situations any of them can be important. For example, the small college where I'm network admin also has a fixed limit on the number of simultaneous sessions we can push through our gateway at one time. Bittorrent users can generate in excess of a 1000 sessions each. Just a few of users like that and suddenly internet access suffers even though we have bandwidth to spare, because we can't process more sessions.

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If your concern is how fast you get your data, they are great - Not sure how. I am using a 512Kbps line and the download speed gets saturated with torrents. In this scenario, a regular download is much better than a torrent download. Also, will decreasing the default value of 'Maximum peers per torrent' from 60 to something lower make it fast? –  Praveen Sripati Oct 13 '11 at 16:48
    
in general torrent gets faster with more sources, since it can grab more pieces of the file at the same time. –  woliveirajr Oct 13 '11 at 17:31
    
@Praveen - Most of the time, the original source for a direct http download is only able to provide a limited transmission rate... say 100Kbps. Individual torrent peers are usually even more limited... say 15Kbps, but you'll put 20 or 30 of them (or even more) together to get a total speed of 450Kbps. If you're downloading a file from a source that can fill your 512Kbps link, then that source will be faster than a torrent. –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 13 '11 at 18:25
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