Why your torrent isn’t downloading (and how to fix it)

Do you have a torrent that’s stuck part way and won’t complete the download? Or can you not even start the download and your client still shows ‘connecting to peers.’

Stuck torrents are super annoying, but fortunately it’s usually fixable. These are the most common causes (and solutions) for a torrent that won’t download.

1. Limited Availability / Dead Torrents

Not all torrents able to be completed. Some don’t have sufficient availability, meaning the swarm doesn’t have all the pieces of the file. This happens when other users hit-and-run the swarm without seeding the complete torrent. That’s how you get a ‘Dead Torrent‘.

How to fix: Usually you’ll need to wait until a new peer joins the swarm with the missing piece(s). You should also check your encryption settings (below) to make sure you aren’t limiting connections. If all else fails, try to find a similar torrent that is well-seeded.

2. In-client Encryption settings

Most torrent clients have a built-in encryption option designed to help circumvent throttling. But your settings are too strict, you might be reducing your number of available peers.

How to fix: Change your encryption settings from ‘Forced’ or ‘Required’ to ‘Enabled’. Or just disable protocol encryption altogether. You should be getting your secure encryption from a VPN anyway.

Encryption Enabled (not forced)
Enable but don’t force encryption

3. Firewall Rules

If you’re new to BitTorrent and this is one of your first attempts, your downloads might be blocked by a Firewall.

How to Fix: You’ll need to Whitelist your torrent client or manually allow your BitTorrent ports through the firewall.

If you’re using uTorrent or BitTorrent on Windows you can go to:

Menu > Preferences > Connection > Add Windows Firewall Exception (Checked)

Why your torrent isn't downloading (and how to fix it) 1

If you use another firewall software (often included with your antivirus) you’ll need to manually whitelist your torrent client in the firewall settings.

4. Change Ports

Sometimes your torrent client will accidentally be set to use a listening port that is blocked (or in use by another program).

How to fix: Change the listening port in your client’s connection settings, then restart the software and try again.

5. Port Forwarding Problems

Port forwarding errors used to cause so many problems for me. Here’s why it’s a problem:

BitTorrent uses both UDP and TCP ports to manage your peer connections. The most important is the ‘Listen Port’ which handles incoming peer connections.

All traffic on the listen port needs to be forwarded to the device running your torrent client. But most of us are behind a router, and that router doesn’t know which computer to direct that traffic to.

Why it’s a problem: If there’s a port forwarding problem, incoming peer connections get delayed or stuck at your router. Peers give you a lower priority and your torrents download slowly or don’t start at all.

How to fix it:

You’ll need to do one of three things to fix the port forwarding issue.

  1. Setup Port Forwarding: Most routers’ admin interface let’s you create port forwarding rules. Here’s instructions for uTorrent (same steps for any torrent client).
  2. Turn on UPnP: Sure, Universal Plug ‘n Play had some security issues in the past, but it automates port-forwarding at the router level so you don’t need to mess with manual rules and static IP addresses. Here’s how.
  3. Use a VPN: The VPN runs on your device and carries the torrent traffic through your router without the need to forward ports. It’s the easiest solution and it just plain works. We recommend Private Internet Access.

6. Incorrect Proxy Settings

Typically we recommend using a VPN instead of a proxy (for the encryption). But many of our readers use a SOCKS proxy as an extra privacy layer. Others prefer the one-time setup with no extra software required.

The setup process can be a bit tricky, and in some cases could lead to torrents not downloading at all.

How to check if proxy is the cause?

  1. Try non-magnet link: Some proxies have trouble opening magnet links. Try downloading the .torrent file directly and see if that fixes things.
  2. Use the ‘Test Proxy’ Feature: Several torrent clients (Vuze, QBittorrent & Deluge) let you check whether your proxy settings are working.
  3. Disable the proxy: If all else fails, disable the proxy and see if your torrents download normally. If they do, you know the proxy settings are to blame.

How to fix it?

Usually it’s a simple configuration error. Make sure you’re using the correct address, port, username/password. Double-check. Try setting it up from scratch again.

If that doesn’t work, make sure your proxy isn’t being blocked by your firewall or router. You may need to open the port manually (port 1080 for many services). Try enabling DHT in your client settings.

7. Outdated Tracker

A torrent Tracker is responsible for keeping an updated list of peers sharing the file. Your torrent client should update the tracker periodically, but sometimes it gets stuck.

How to fix: You can manually refresh the tracker by right-clicking on the torrent and select ‘Update Tracker’.

8. Blocking/Throttling by your ISP

Here in the USA, most of the major Internet Service Providers have been caught throttling traffic at one time or another. And BitTorrent traffic is frequently targeted for throttling.

Some ISP’s may try to block torrent ports altogether (Comcast tried this).

The result is slow, unreliable torrent downloads. And throttling is way more common than most people realize.

How to fix: The only solution is to encrypt your torrent traffic. The best method is with a torrent-friendly VPN.

Some people have also reported success with the weaker in-client protocol encryption (free). Protocol encryption only works if your ISP uses less advanced DPI technology.

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‘Forced’ stream encryption in Deluge

9. AntiVirus

Real-time Antivirus programs can sometimes flag Bittorrent connections, often without alerting you. It’s one of those sneaky causes that’s always worth checking.

How to fix: Turn off your antivirus shields temporarily. Then restart your torrent client and see if the file downloads.

In Conclusion

We’ve covered the most common causes of torrents that won’t download. The three most common are:

  • Port forwarding issues
  • Firewall issues
  • ISP-based blocking

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

David Barnes

David started torrenting before it was cool. He enjoys hiking, strategy games and eats watermelon year round. He still rocks his Napster t-shirt once a month.

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