If you use BitTorrent frequently, you may have considered joining a Private Tracker, or even received an invite to one.
But are Private Torrent Trackers and how do they work?
In this guide, I’ll explain the difference between public and private trackers, the clear advantages of joining a private tracker (if you can) and how the entire process.
- What is a Private Tracker?
- Advantages of Private Trackers
- How to Join a Private Tracker
- Following the Rules
What is a Private Tracker
Private Torrent Trackers are members-only BitTorrent communities, usually focused around a specific interest (ebooks, games, live audio etc.). They tend to have a wider variety of high-quality content, faster download speeds, and minimal risk of malicious content.
As with any private community, exclusivity is part of the appeal. It can be hard to get an invite and there are very specific rules to follow (to protect the reputation and quality of the tracker).
Private vs. Public trackers
Most torrent trackers that you’ve heard of are public. They have visible websites that anyway can access, with no login required or rules to follow.
Some of the most popular public trackers include:
- The PirateBay
- Kickass Torrents
And if you’ve spend any downloading from these sites, you’ve likely experienced most (if not all) of the following issues: slow downloads, dead torrents, low-quality rips, malware/viruses, and bait-and-switch content (not what you expected).
How Private Trackers are different
Private Trackers rigidly enforce rules around content quality, organization, and seeding. You’ll rarely find dead torrents, content tends to be very high-quality, and speeds can be downright blazing.
In fact, many private members run their own Seedboxes, which are basically like dedicated torrenting machines with huge disk capacity and gigabit speeds.
Advantages of Private Trackers
Private Trackers have some clear advantages their public counterparts.
The most obvious advantages are:
- Variety: a wide array of content within the tracker niche.
- Availability: Members seed much longer, and rarely delete low-availability torrents
- Speeds: Longer seeding and lots of high-bandwidth connections mean you get really fast speeds, even on torrents with few peers.
- Curation: Content is curated, cataloged, and well-organized making it easy to find
- Security: You’ll hardly ever find malware or malicious torrents in private communities, since your reputation is visible to all.
- Privacy: Torrent swarms can’t be monitored easily by non-members, making private trackers much less susceptible to IP-based torrent monitoring.
How to Join a Private Tracker?
Occasionally, private trackers may have open registration periods (anyone can join) but this is the exception, not the rule.
Usually, you need to receive an invite from an existing member.
Why are invites required?
An invite-only system serves several functions:
- Limit who can join
- An invite means the member is ‘vouching’ for you. It reduces the risk of letting in bad members, as your behavior will affect the standing of the person who invited you.
- Keeps the community manageable and connected.
How to get invited
These days, the most largest (and best) private trackers are extremely hard to join unless you know an existing member. But here are some strategies you can follow to get into 2nd-tier (or even top-tier) private trackers.
1. Work your way up
The Drake lyric, “Started from the bottom now we here” is a perfect analogy for building credibility and standing in the private torrent community.
At first, take the best invite you can get via a referral, opentrackers.org or /r/open_invites, build a reputation and leverage it into membership in private tracker one rung higher.
Many mid-tier trackers will actively recruit high-rep members from other communities, rather than open up registration.
2. Tap your network
If you don’t mind publicizing your love of torrenting online, you can ask your Twitter, IG, or Facebook network to DM you an invite. Even better, if you’re in a pseudonymous community such as a Discord server you might have be surprised at the quality of invites you can turn up.
For example, crypto-centric or video-centric Discord communities are perfect candidates.
3. Buy your way in
This is the riskiest method, but can also be the quickest. If you don’t mind the risk of getting burned for a few bucks, it could even be the best option.
You can literally buy private tracker invites on Ebay if you want.
There are also dedicated sites like TorrentInvites where you can buy (or trade) invites to other to private trackers. Whether you want to buy in or trade your way up, this is a great site to try.
Follow the Rules
Every private tracker (worth joining) is going to have strict rules about seeding, share ratios, uploading content, and inactivity.
Pro Tip: This 1st thing you should do when joining a private tracker is to read the rules thoroughly. Then read them again.
From the tracker’s perspective, you are expendable if you aren’t contributing or following the rules. They may give you a warning first, but after that your account will be banned.
Here are the most common rules you’ll encounter:
1. Seeding & Ratio
Most trackers will require you to maintain a specific minimum share ratio (uploaded/downloaded bandwidth). This ratio may vary based on how much data you download (more bandwidth requires a higher ratio).
You may also be required to seed a file for a minimum time period after completion
2. Torrent Clients
Not all torrent clients are allowed. Some clients (e.g. BitTyrant) can exploit the torrent protocol to manipulate seeding metrics.
The exact list of approved clients will vary by tracker, but top candidates are:
3. Multiple Accounts
Having multiple accounts is a strict no-no almost everywhere.
First off, it’s one less account that could go to someone else.
Secondly, it could be used to manipulate seeding quotas (literally just sharing with yourself).
You can be held responsible (banned) if you frequently invite low-quality members to the tracker.
And obviously don’t sell invites. If you’re caught, that’s an immediate ban.
How to find Private Trackers to Join?
If you don’t have a referral from a friend, you probably don’t even know where to start looking for a tracker to join. Here are a few resources you’ll find helpful:
Private Tracker Spreadsheet
This github repo has more than 200 private trackers, along with the important metrics (users, files) and invite status.
OpenTrackers is a database of private trackers that currently have open registration. You won’t find top-tier trackers here but that’s not the point.
It’s a good way to get your foot in the door and start building a rep.
Here are some threads and articles from around the web that will help you get into (and stay in) your first private tracker.