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4. BitTorrent Free

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Should BitTorrent Free be in this list? It's certainly a capable torrent client, lightweight, fast, easy to use, with convenient features like the ability to play media files before they're fully downloaded.

It's hard to get too excited about any of this, though, because essentially it's just a rebranded version of uTorrent. The same code, from the same team, just with a different colour scheme.

Best torrent client - BitTorrent

If you're trying out torrent clients, then, make sure you choose one or the other, rather than both. And again, pay close attention during the installation process, because by default this will install plenty of software which you don't really need.

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5. Vuze

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While most torrent clients concentrate simply on finding and downloading files just as quickly as they can, Vuze (the program formerly known as Azureus) is a little more ambitious.

Best torrent client - Vuze

You can play HD video, for instance, and integrate the program with iTunes. A host of plugins allow you to add all kinds of advanced features, from scheduling tools to RSS feed readers and generators, all kinds of remote control options, even a Sudoku game. Pay £19.90 a year for Vuze Plus and you can even get antivirus and DVD burning (as well as the removal of all ads).

This does help to make Vuze one of the more heavyweight torrent clients, of course, even if you do manage to avoid the unnecessary software it wants to install during setup. But if you like the extensibility its plugin system provides than Vuze could be very appealing.

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6. Opera

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If you'll only download torrents very occasionally, then you may not have to install a specialist torrent client at all. The Opera browser has built-in torrent support, and treats the files just like any other download: click a link, choose an option or two, and you can watch its progress in the Downloads manager.

Best torrent client - Opera

This won't necessarily be the best solution. You may still have to navigate some technical terms (the first Preferences dialog lets you choose the "Incoming listen port", for instance). And you won't get the advanced features and optimisations available in specialist torrent clients, which means your files may take a lot longer to arrive.

If you're interested in performance, then, or want to make use of torrents on a regular basis, then we'd look elsewhere. But if you value simplicity above all else then Opera is ideal.

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7. Transmission-Qt Win

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As an open source torrent client, you can be sure that Transmission won't inflict toolbars, ads or other irritations on you. The program does have plenty of advanced features - magnet links, DHT, encryption, UPnP port forwarding and a whole lot more - but it still manages to be one of the most lightweight and efficient torrent tools around.

Best torrent client - Transmission

PC users will quickly notice one rather significant problem, though: the developers have focused on Mac and Linux builds, and there isn't a standard Windows version available.

Of course the other advantage of open source projects is anyone can take the code and reuse it, and fortunately that's happened here.

The core Transmission code has been rebuilt for Windows under the name Transmission-Qt Win, and while the interface is a little basic when compared with some of the competition, if you're familiar with torrent technology then you should have no real problems at all.

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8. Tixati

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If you're tired of the adware so often bundled with other torrent clients, then Tixati will come as a refreshing change. Installation is fast and easy, no unwanted extras or endless "Decline" buttons to hit: it's just all very straightforward, more about helping you than making money for its developers.

Best torrent client - Tixati

The program itself is smartly designed. There are plenty of advanced features - PEX, DHT and Magnet Link support, RC4 encryption, scheduling, RSS - but it's not overly complex.

Pop-up alerts explain how and why to set up items like bandwidth throttling, for instance, system resource use is minimal, and clean and clear displays keep you in touch with all your downloads.

Factor in its excellent performance, too, and Tixati a great choice for torrent beginners and old hands alike.