Download Server

Where having a download server may not be the first reason for getting a home server, it's worth thinking about adding this role alongside another role to take advantage of unused bandwidth when everyone is asleep. Instead of leaving the job up to another computer, utilising the server puts it to good use when it may be idle and saves energy by leaving the other computer off.

Before we begin, this topic will discuss methods of downloading using torrents and Usenet. These have a very bad press due to the large numbers of pirating and illegal activity, this is true but worth discussing how beneficial these technologies are for distributing legal content by people and organisations that without would not be able to.

Torrents are the latest in peer to peer sharing that reduces cost for people to release new content by distributing the file to a small portion of other users, who all in turn distribute to new users creating a cascade of multiple copies available to all. A perfect example being free Linux distributions where costs can be significantly reduced sharing the bandwidth amongst many, rather than having the brunt of providing it all. Where Usenet was not originally created for file transfer, it now benefits from an advanced form of error correction that saves wasted bandwidth, and publishers who simply cannot afford to host the files can use a bit of the immense server capacity from big Usenet companies at a significantly reduced cost yet make it available to many.


As a download server would be considered to many as an extra add on, it's good to note that there are no real extra requirements in terms of hardware that needs to be added. If there are to be any stipulations it would be to have enough free hard drive space to satisfy downloads, as low free space warnings will go unnoticed while you're out or asleep and may result in a slow computer on the next visit to the server, complete with other processes that may of failed due to the lack of space. Speed of drive is not of concern either, as the biggest speed bottleneck will inevitably be the Internet connection speed.


Usenet: The process for downloading from Usenet is split into three parts, downloading, parity and extracting, this is explained in details on the methods section. There is software like the free SABnzbd that automates the process, so this is recommended as a quick start method.

For more control there are utilities that can handle each part of the process. For downloading I recommend Newsbin for its easy to understand setup and layout. Parity or error correction can be handled with QuickPar, its a small free program that never made it out of beta stage but is very stable and works great. Finally for extracting files 7-Zip is again a free from that can open and extract all file type commonly seen on Usenet.

Torrents: Due to its popularity there are a whole host of different clients to choose from, each touting little tweaks to cater to different users. If you are staring out I would recommend a standard bit torrent client, it offers the best user friendly experience end ease of use.

The most common clients available are currently uTorrent and BitTorrent. UTorrent is designed to be a lightweight basic application purely for accessing and downloading from the torrent network, therefore ideal for slower computers. BitTorrent on the other hand is the full featured program that adds more features if needed, however the free version has some of the features limited and is supported by advertising, as well as nagging to upgrade to a premium version.

HTTP: While they are thin on the ground compared to its dialup hay day, there are still lots to be found that include better features for scheduling and managing download speeds, as well as FTP integration. I recommend Free Download Manager Lite as it combines the necessary features such as bandwidth limiting and the ability to resume downloads for free and without any extras that are only there to take up unnecessary system resources. The full version currently has support for Torrents and YouTube downloading but if those features do not appeal the Lite version is perfect for basic downloading.