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Most large torrent files (8-20 gb) take quite a while to download. Is there software for Mac OS X that allows me to watch them while downloading?

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This question would probably be a better fit on superuser.com (and indeed may already be answered there) –  Dan J Nov 5 '11 at 12:50
ditto. I wouldn't say this is off–topic; but in its current form the real question is actually quite cross-platform. –  koiyu Nov 5 '11 at 12:53
@djacobson, there are solutions for windows (I've used them, that's why I want them). I'm asking for an OS X solution. –  mist Nov 6 '11 at 12:37

6 Answers 6

up vote 17 down vote accepted
  • We need a torrent client that can download the movie file parts in order, not randomly.
  • We need a player that supports playing incomplete files.
  • We need a connection that is faster than the movie’s bitrate.

The torrent client

Previously I used BitThief. It is developed by a technology institute in Zurich. It didn’t have a polished GUI and took a little bit too much CPU while downloading.

The new client I found thanks to @diimdeep. It is called qbittorrent and it is awesome.


You can see that while downloading it downloads as a normal torrent client – the parts are downloaded randomly:


But there is an option:


After that we can see that the rest of the file is being downloaded sequentially (blue – downloaded, green – requested):


The connection speed

How can we tell if the speed is good enough? By the estimated time of arrival (ETA):


If the movie is 1.5 hours and the ETA is 17 minutes, then the speed is sufficient.

The player

The player is and always has been mplayer. I use MplayerX because it comes with a nice OSX gui. Download and associate movie files with mplayer (avi, mkg):


The final step is to to play the file after the downloading started:


That’s it.


Happy watching.

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Excellent solution for a technology that was designed for things other than delivering the first parts of a file somewhat in order. There is a lot of work on encoding video with correct hints for streaming so that you can start playing frames as a stream rather than having the entire file locally. Choosing to torrent a file that is encoded and hinted for streaming will make this much more enjoyable... –  bmike Nov 6 '11 at 16:26
I agree. Unfortunately torrent creators don't have that in mind :( –  mist Nov 6 '11 at 16:32
This sounds so awesoeme –  abc905 Nov 7 '11 at 8:43
Update 2012.08.16: A fix for utilizing magnet links: magnet->torrent converter: magnet2torrent.com –  mist Aug 16 '12 at 14:06
Magnet converter no longer needed. the new version of bit thief supports magnet links (although they don't work on certain sites). –  mist Feb 13 '13 at 0:19

Yes. There are three requirements:

  1. A video player software that doesn't mind about incomplete video files
  2. A torrent client that lets you choose the order in which the pieces are downloaded
  3. A fast–enough broadband connection

# 3 is trivial. Although you could cope with slower connection, if you download enough buffer for playback.

# 1 is somewhat trivial. VLC can start the playback of a file if the file's headers are downloaded (first pieces of the file). Seeking is a bit limited and I don't remember correctly if VLC stops when encountering a (too long) gaps in video. On Windows I've used GOM Player, which was more laid-back with missing frames.

# 2 is counter-intuitive. While many clients allow you to prioritise the files, prioritising pieces is less common. This is simply because torrents are designed to transfer big sets of data fast. A large reason why torrents are faster or more efficient than an ordered transfer of a file is due to the fact that torrents pick the easy fruits - whatever parts of the file are available from the least loaded / closest source are what get downloaded first. Statistically, you should expect to be missing key parts of the beginning of the video until the transfer is almost complete.

The speed is achieved by initially splitting the file(s) to pieces, sending the pieces to the clients in the network and then all the clients will share and merge the different pieces. The operation is best described with an animation found in BitTorrent's Wikipedia article.

Unfortunately I can't recommend any torrent clients that give you the option to prioritise the pieces—if there even are any—as I've never really had the need.

Also note that BitTorrent isn't exactly designed for playback while downloading (QED), but for just sharing data. You might get better luck with on–demand video rental services available in your area, which usually use software and protocols specifically designed for HD-playback over the net.

Sadly that leaves out lots of great indie content. Maybe the best way to deal with the issue is to gain patience or plan more ahead :-)

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I agree with everything you say. However, I'm still searching for a solution –  mist Nov 6 '11 at 12:38

http://www.qbittorrent.org at least can download sequentially

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Tru story. This thing downloads sequentially, has better interface (although far from uTorrent), it's faster, lower cpu usage (~20% on one core vs. ~105% for the bitThief). So far I like it a lot. Thanks. –  mist Feb 13 '13 at 0:18

No, because Torrent download files in chunks and not sequentially, so you cannot be sure to download the various pieces of the file in the required order to view it.

You can try a specialized Torrent client (like Miro), but I do not believe if will works.

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Miro just lets torrent video files, but not in sequence (like streaming), so it definitely won't work. –  abc905 Nov 7 '11 at 8:44
I have Miro anyway. It doesn't seem to have the preview while downloading option. –  mist Nov 9 '11 at 12:32
Incorrect, torrent files can be downloaded sequentially, it's the client software's decision. qBittorrent can download either sequentially or randomly. –  Hello World Dec 11 at 10:41

currently, there are only window and Linux clients that support this feature

q torrent - windows - linux

utorrent 2.1 alpha build - you need videolan

utorrent 3.1 you need to install Videolan or mpcstar

deluge - Linux and windows, Probably Mac you need the Pieces Plug-in,and VLC

Video Tyrant - you need java installed, with vlc

bit-comet 1.32 - windows - works with vlc or mpcstar

NextSharePc European Union project, AKA known as P2p http://trial.p2p-

next.org/ - windows - Linux unsure about mac

http://www.tribler.org/trac - windows , linux , unsure about mac

last one, is of course vuze 5.1 whatever version it is. you need to pay for

the streaming feature.

thats about it.

my recommendations are, bit-comet for private torrent trackers, you can change the user agent in the options which allows you to download from them.

the best public client is Video Tyrant, as it never buffers the video. bit-comet works also really good on public trackers.

streaming 20gbs on a home broadband is impossible, i can guarantee you this your going to experience buffering every 12 seconds you need either 100mbit or 50mbit home connection.

you should download 10mbit per /sec to be able to stream HD torrents.

thats about it.

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if your really into this, you could try the Chinese client called xunlei player, which supports ed2k, bittorrent, HTTP FTP, torrent streaming. xunlei allows a user to seek in the torrent. –  webmaster Mar 23 '12 at 12:17
We wanted mac clients and most of these won't work, right? For windows I know there are a lot of options. –  mist Apr 23 '12 at 22:43
For OS X and 1080p I use bitthief. It's ugly, but it works. –  mist Apr 23 '12 at 22:44

There is a program called Vuze that is available but requires a yearly subscription of $25 for streaming while still downloading.

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Mostly we're searching for a free solution. And we support freeware :) –  mist Feb 25 '13 at 19:27

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