How does Popcorn Time work

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Popcorn time is considered a free alternative to subscription services like Netflix or Hulu. Its user interface is very similar to what streaming platforms have – it contains movie titles with thumbnails, offers subtitles and allows you to stream new movies for free. But Popcorn Time is not a regular streaming app, it’s an open-source project that uses torrenting technology for streaming, but how does it work?

Over the years Popcorn time was facing some legal challenges and was taken down a few times by its original developers. As of today Popcorn Time still works and develops new features for its users. The streaming app is still available to use and operates on many platforms including desktop devices and Smart TVs.

Popcorn Time is not a regular streaming app but a BitTorrent client with an integrated media player. It uses torrenting technology to download video content and stream it in the app. This means that the company does not host any content itself but rather uses the peers and third party torrent trackers to distribute it.

Here’s how streaming with Popcorn Time works:

First, when you choose a movie to stream you connect to the torrent tracker and a peer network:

These peers have your video file and you start downloading it using a torrent client. The difference between regular torrenting and doing it with Popcorn time is that it downloads the file pieces sequentially.

For example, when using regular torrenting, random pieces of a file are usually downloaded without any order:


With Popcorn Time the downloading is sequential meaning it prioritizes the video content pieces that are at the beginning of the file:

The app downloads the starting file bits immediately this way allowing to stream the movie while it is still downloading.

If you ever wondered if Popcorn Time uses torrents, where it actually saves all your files?

The app downloads all files to a temporary secret cache folder. Once finished watching all files are deleted when you either quit an app or restart your device. But if you want to actually find a Popcorn Time download folder on Mac or Windows look into the app advanced settings and find the Cache folder directory.

Like any other BitTorrent client, Popcorn Time actually seeds your file while you stream the movie. It shares the file with other peers and if you do not use a VPN it can be considered as sharing copyrighted content illegally. Uploading and downloading copyrighted material even with Popcorn Time can get you in trouble.

If you’re having trouble loading movies or it just does not work, there might be a few reasons for that.

  • You might be using the wrong version of the app: Popcorn Time changed their websites and forked their project a few times already, so there might be confusing which is the right one. And chances are that you either using the wrong one, or you need to update the current version of the app. Check the updates at the right project which is currently popcorntime.app
  • P2P traffic might be blocked: since the app uses torrent to stream the movies it might be that P2P traffic is blocked on certain networks. The restrictions are often implemented either at college, work, or your ISP just does not allow it or throttles the connection. Using a VPN is the way to solve the problem as it will hide torrenting so you will not get caught and unblock torrenting so Popcorn Time can stream.

Check out the VPNs that are suitable for streaming

  • Not enough seeds: sometimes when there is not enough seeders your movie might not load since there’s no one to download the file pieces from. The only option, in this case, is to try another movie or try later.

Popcorn Time is an unusual service/app that combines torrenting technology and streaming. The way it works is based on sequential file download. One important when watching movies is to use a VPN. It will help to bypass the restriction on P2P traffic as well as hide your torrenting from ISP so you can stay safe.


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