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?

  • 1
    This question would probably be a better fit on superuser.com (and indeed may already be answered there)
    – Dan J
    Nov 5, 2011 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. Nov 5, 2011 at 12:53
  • 2
    @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, 2011 at 12:37
  • This video is great, atleast for windows users youtube.com/watch?v=qbNATa3NtJo
    Nov 14, 2015 at 10:57

8 Answers 8

  • 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 (and a torrent with enough peers obviously).

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.

There's 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 don't know why the domain is Hungarian)

  • low cpu usage
  • plays almost anything (although very rarely it crashes and burns)
  • lots of options (boosting volume, control of cache on streams, indexing...)
  • arrow keys navigation (I can't live without that)
  • playing incomplete files (and reindexing them, which allows navigation)

I use MplayerX - 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.

  • 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, 2011 at 16:26
  • I agree. Unfortunately torrent creators don't have that in mind :(
    – mist
    Nov 6, 2011 at 16:32
  • 1
    This sounds so awesoeme
    – abc905
    Nov 7, 2011 at 8:43
  • Update 2012.08.16: A fix for utilizing magnet links: magnet->torrent converter: magnet2torrent.com
    – mist
    Aug 16, 2012 at 14:06
  • 1
    VLC seems to handle incomplete downloads just fine. Dec 11, 2014 at 10:38

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 :-)

  • 2
    I agree with everything you say. However, I'm still searching for a solution
    – mist
    Nov 6, 2011 at 12:38

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

  • 1
    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, 2013 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.

  • Miro just lets torrent video files, but not in sequence (like streaming), so it definitely won't work.
    – abc905
    Nov 7, 2011 at 8:44
  • I have Miro anyway. It doesn't seem to have the preview while downloading option.
    – mist
    Nov 9, 2011 at 12:32
  • 1
    Incorrect, torrent files can be downloaded sequentially, it's the client software's decision. qBittorrent can download either sequentially or randomly. Dec 11, 2014 at 10:41

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

  • 1
    Mostly we're searching for a free solution. And we support freeware :)
    – mist
    Feb 25, 2013 at 19:27

I found this question when searched for same things

And I found at least two free working solution not yet listed here:

  1. isoplex - http://isoplex.isohunt.to/ this player has very ascetic interface, but has function to open and play torrent file. I watched part of 1080p movie with very little waiting on beginning and flawless playing latter.

  2. tribler - http://www.tribler.org/ is more torrent client that player but have ability to stream torrent file while downloading.

  • isoplex - no tabs (searches are very slow, i want parallel searches), no control over where the stream is coming from, no keyboard shortcuts, no settings. Sometimes very popular searches fail to find a result, no sitcoms - only movies, the player is more cpu intensive than mplayer (mplayer is by far the most optimal i've seen), not opensource (for whoever cares). But this is an amazing software. BUT it has awesome interface and if I have to teach my grandmother, this is the perfect software - simple, all the complexity is hidden. Saves diskspace, I like it a lot. Thanks for the link
    – mist
    Dec 27, 2014 at 16:14
  • tribler - the best feature if this torrent client is the tor-like network it's using to hide its identity. On OSX it's not working as far as I checked. In terms of streaming - it's opening a local stream channel that I couldn't make work, but it's important to ask why is it doing so. Can't I just play the contents? Tribler is very cpu-intensive as far as I checked. But it will get better i suppose and the anonymity feature is awesome. Again thanks for the link.
    – mist
    Dec 27, 2014 at 16:34
  • tribler - update: it's tor-like anonymity thingy works as expected on OS X. Pretty awesome.
    – mist
    Dec 29, 2014 at 12:48
  • tribler - the streaming feature works. But for the god of me I can't understand the reasoning - it's streaming a locally downloading file to you (locally). Probably because it doesn't trust your player can play it? Windows Media Player maybe?
    – mist
    Dec 29, 2014 at 12:58
  • 1
    I think it streams content because is easily to show partially downloaded content as stream than as complete file but its only my guess
    – sage444
    Dec 29, 2014 at 13:06

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.

  • 1
    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, 2012 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, 2012 at 22:43
  • For OS X and 1080p I use bitthief. It's ugly, but it works.
    – mist
    Apr 23, 2012 at 22:44
  1. Download popcorntime
  2. click on the folder icon
  3. drag and drop your file
  4. wait a moment and the video will start

Source: Youtube tutorial

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