Setting up BitTorrent on a Mac

20 October 2015, 05:00

UPDATE 29Feb2016: I wrote an update to this guide, available here.

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Transmission is easily the best Mac BitTorrent client, without debate. It’s open source and free of charge.

Here’s how to set it up for the best possible secure results once you’ve installed it.

  1. Open Transmission and then open its preferences dialog box (Cmd+comma). Click the Peers icon at the top of the window.

  2. Ensure Prefer Encrypted Peers is checked, and then check Ignore Unencrypted Peers beneath this.

  3. Put a check alongside the Blacklist heading, and in the URL field paste the following:

    http://john.bitsurge.net/public/biglist.p2p.gz

    Ensure the box headed Automatically Update Weekly is checked, and click the Update button to grab the latest block list.

I also like to make some adjustments in the Transfers section of the dialog box to ensure downloads start as soon as I click the link, rather than having Transmission pop-up a dialog box asking what I want to do. However, this is ultimately personal preference.

UK users might want to use a third-party DNS to overcome government-mandated blocking/censorship of BitTorrent sites. Google’s DNS is fast, and can be added as follows:

  1. Open System Preferences and click the Network icon.

  2. Select the type of network connection you’re using in the list at the left (that is, Wi-Fi or Ethernet etc.). It will have a green dot alongside. Then click the Advanced button at the bottom right.

  3. Click the DNS tab, and then click the plus button at the bottom left. This will delete what’s already there. Type the following:

    8.8.8.8

  4. After hitting Enter, again tap the plus button and type the following:

    8.8.4.4

  5. Click OK and then close System Preferences.

Note that there’s a slight downside of manually specifying a DNS server, which is that if you use your Mac out and about on public Wi-Fi then such services usually want to direct you to a captive portal page in order to login. For this procedure to work you’ll need to delete your DNS entries and let the public Wi-Fi’s specify one, which will happen automatically as soon as you click the minus button in the DNS panel. However, once you’ve logged in you can usually follow the steps above again to specify your own DNS.

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