rtorrent – An introduction

Recently, I’ve been asked a few times how to use rtorrent so I thought it time to introduce it to others who might be interested in configuring my favorite bittorrent client.

First off, this is a Fedora tutorial, but much of what you’ll see in this tutorial is applicable to just about any Linux distro.

rtorrent is a ncurses based (meaning text user interface) client for bittorrent downloading. I’ve used bittorrent for a few years now and run a couple trackers of my own as well.

Getting rtorrent is quite simple:

# yum install rtorrent

This provides you the rtorrent binary, some documentation and an sample .rtorrent.rc file which we’ll use later on to make it easier to configure rtorrent to start it’s torrents automatically. So far the file list is about 7, but that’s what makes rtorrent great.

# rpm -ql rtorrent<br /> /usr/bin/rtorrent<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/AUTHORS<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/COPYING<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/INSTALL<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/README<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/TODO<br /> /usr/share/doc/rtorrent-0.6.4/rtorrent.rc.example<br /> /usr/share/man/man1/rtorrent.1.gz

Now that rtorrent is installed, there’s some knowledge your going to need to get it started. Once you’ve played with rtorrent for a while, you’ll feel right at home with all of the keystrokes you are about to learn.

Simply start rtorrent:

$ rtorrent

A screen appears something like this:

rtorrent - main

I tend to use screen with rtorrent so you may be interested in this as well. screen provides the extra functionality of closing the window and reconnecting to rtorrent at will.

The keystrokes you need to learn will come in two parts. One set for starting the download and one for maintaining the downloads and uploads. Lets start with the former.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – Each of these keys represent a different view inside rtorrent. The _view_s are main, sort by name, started, stopped, complete, incomplete and hashing respectively.

Enter – Will allow you to load a particular torrent into rtorrent. Once you do this, you’ll get the following prompt:


Enter the filename of the torrent you’d like to download. URLs are accepted as well

load> /home/clints/SSS_WIN_2007.01.torrent

load> http://mirrors.xmission.com/softwarefor.org/iso/SSS_WIN_2007.01.torrent

Once you have the torrent loaded, you’ll need to start it up. This requires the up and down arrow keys. Because this part is a little bit tricky, you’ll need to play around with it to get a feel for it. Try just hitting the down arrow, you should see something like this:

Selecting a torrent

Once you’ve selected it, the three vertical * (asterisks) will appear next to your selection. Starting and stopping the torrent can easily be done:

Ctrl-s – Start the torrent

Ctrl-d – Stop the torrent

Once the torrent file is running, it should connect to the appropriate tracker and start the download to the directory where rtorrent was invoked. Now that the torrent is started, its easy to manage using the following keystrokes. Mind you, these are global controls:

a, s, d – Increase the upload speed by 1, 5, 50 Kb/s respectively.

z, x, c – Decrease the upload speed by 1,5,50 Kb/s respectively.

A, S, D – Increase the download speed by 1,5,50 Kb/s respectively.

Z, X, C – Decrease the download by 1,5,50 Kb/s respectively.

In all honesty, this is as simple as it gets, but there’s more you can do. In one of my next posts, I’ll cover the .rtorrent.rc file and some other advanced features of rtorrent. Until then, enjoy the coolest tool for downloading your torrents.