Seeding torrents is not a priority for many users. There are less and less seeders because people don't realize how important it is to share. But before we go deeper into that, let's see the definition of seeding.
What does Seeding Mean in Torrenting?
After you finish the download of a torrent file, you are seeding it. In other words, you are uploading it to other “peers” who are downloading the same file. Right after your download is complete, you become a “seeder”, meaning you have the complete file and you are not downloading it anymore.
It's worth mentioning that before you became a “seeder”, you were downloading the file and already uploading the parts you had. You were a “peer”, someone who still doesn't have the entire file. It's correct if we say that a “peer” is already seeding before having the whole torrent file.
Why is it Important?
The first thing that you should keep in mind is that torrenting is made through P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing. This means that you don't download one complete file from the same place. Each file is divided into many parts and you download them from different people, and you also upload those parts to other “peers”. The name “peer-to-peer” should make more sense to you now.
In simple words, seeding allows a torrent to stay alive. If there are no seeders, the torrent will certainly die and no more people can download the total amount of parts. Let's look at an example to understand it better:
Imagine that a certain torrent file has 5 “peers” and 0 “seeds”. That means no one has the entire file, and those 5 “peers” are exchanging the same parts between them. It will get to a point where everyone will have exactly the same parts, and the download will stop. Sometimes, when you see that everyone is stuck at the same percentage of a download, then this is the most common explanation. There are no seeders available, or they simply don't exist anymore.
Besides the matter of the survival of a file, there's also the speed. More seeders mean that you can download more parts from more people simultaneously. That way, the downloads are faster.
When Should You Stop Seeding?
Your torrent manager will tell you some information about each file. You can check the “Ratio” tab to see how much you uploaded so far. Having a “ratio” of 1.000 means that you have uploaded as much as you downloaded; a full copy of the file. This should be your minimum; you should at least give back the same amount that you took. But it's a good practice to give a bit more back. Many people wait until it gets to 2.000 or even 3.000, meaning 2 or 3 times the total amount of the file.
There's one special situation that we would like to mention. Another info that your BitTorrent client gives you is the number of seeders for each file. If you see that you are the last “seed”, and there are only “peers” left, then you should keep in mind that if you stop seeding, you will very likely kill that torrent. In that case, it would be very nice from you to wait until at least one of the “peers” finishes the download and becomes a “seed”. That way the torrent would be kept alive.
Seeding is giving back to the community what you just took. If everyone seeded, torrents would remain alive and healthy, with fast speeds.
You should even seed recent torrents that have a lot of “seeders”. Imagine if everyone would think: “This one has many seeders, it doesn't make a difference if I seed”. That way of thinking would kill torrents much faster, they wouldn't last long.
Naturally, a torrent loses “seeds” with time and its download becomes slower. Those older ones should have your special attention, because they are almost disappearing. Seeding them is a way of reversing that situation. Just imagine that an old masterpiece won't be available to the public anymore… it's a tragedy! Remember, sharing is caring!