Millions of people use free P2P file sharing programs - software to swap music, video and other files over the Internet. Many free P2P file sharing programs exist. Some P2P software offers a larger user base and greater numbers of files to choose from. Some software better utilizes network resources and may be easier to use. Finally, some P2P file sharing programs are increasing in popularity while others are declining. Consider all of these factors when deciding which P2P network to join.
Gary Burchell/Taxi/Getty Images
As the installed base of Shareaza client users grows, it has become an increasingly better P2P file sharing program. This client offers an extremely powerful search engine capable of connecting to multiple popular P2P networks including eDonkey, BitTorrent and Gnutella. Shareaza file sharing software includes intelligence for detecting fake and/or corrupted files. The free Shareaza download also contains no ads or spyware.
BitTorrent is a free P2P software application that has attracted a loyal following among those interested in sharing movies and television programs. The offical BitTorrent P2P client generally does not support bandwidth throttling, meaning that it will tend to monopolize a network connection and not allow surfing the Internet or otherwise utilizing the network while files are being downloaded or uploaded. Various other alternative BitTorrent clients like Azureus, BitComet and BitTornado also exist.
Ares is a full-featured free P2P network with its own file sharing programs including Ares Galaxy. Ares clients support decentralized music and other file sharing and include a built-in chat service. Ares strives to offer the simplicity of Kazaa clients with no adware and fast connection times.
The BearShare P2P file sharing program is a popular free software client for the Gnutella P2P network. Both free and pay downloads of BearShare file sharing programs exist.
The Kazaa software family (including the Kazaa Lite family of applications) has been the single-most popular P2P file sharing program / system of all time. Kazaa is fast and easy to use. However Kazaa software and the FastTrack network it utilizes appear to be declining rapidly in popularity and availability of files. Some have criticized the intrusiveness of "adware" embedded in free Kazaa clients. Others have complained about the frequency of encountering fake files on FastTrack.
No longer functional or supported by its creators, the Morpheus P2P client application existed in both free and paid Ultra versions. Morpheus Ultra removed banner advertising bundled with the free version. Morpheus clients were capable of searching Gnutella2, FastTrack, eDonkey2K and Overnet P2P networks.
The Limewire P2P file sharing program connects to the Gnutella P2P network. Limewire client software is widely recognized for its clean user interface that does not contain adware. Sometimes billed as the "fastest file sharing program," Limewire claims to offer relatively good search and download performance. Free Limewire software downloads are available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems. Limewire Pro pay clients also exist.
No longer available, eDonkey/Overnet was a state-of-the-art P2P file sharing network especially popular in Europe. The eDonkey P2P client connected to both the eDonkey and Overnet P2P networks which combined support a large base of users and files. A separate Overnet client existed at one time some years ago but was merged into eDonkey. eDonkey ran on Windows, Linux and Macintosh computers. The free version of eDonkey contained embedded advertising but none of the dreaded spyware found in some free software downloads online.
The eMule project started with the goal of building an improved free eDonkey client. eMule has achieved a large user base, connecting both to the eDonkey P2P file sharing network and a few others. It contains no advertising, and its software base is well-maintained by an open source development team. The chief limitation of eMule's P2P file sharing program is its speed: eMule typically performs downloading much slower than other P2P clients.
No longer available online, WinMX offered a large P2P file sharing network and a feature-rich client program that has evolved over years of development. WinMX had a reputation for being complex and more difficult to use than some alternatives. However, WinMX also provided power to users in managing their downloads, and it offers a wide selection of MP3 music files. Some WinMX users reported waiting in long queues to download popular files. WinMX software ran only on the Windows family of operating systems.