Both magnet links and torrent files are used to share content with other people through torrent services like uTorrent or BitTorrent. At a glance, the two types of filesharing may seem the same as both are used to share and download things with others, but they aren’t quite the same after all.
How do they work?
Both are used by torrent clients to fetch files for users. That means that if you are looking to download something, whether you have a magnet link or a torrent address, your torrenting client should be able to make it work.
The difference is not in what you get when you download a file, but rather in where the file comes from. A torrent establishes a connection between a user’s torrent client and a web server somewhere. The file in question is retrieved from the webserver and made available to the user.
The extension for torrent files is .torrent – thus the name. As the name implies, these files take up space and have to be stored somewhere. Specifically, somewhere that’s accessible by everyone at all times. This isn’t exactly always convenient – not as convenient as a magnet link.
What about magnet links?
Magnet links also acquire a file but in a different way. The torrent system partially relies on seeding and leeching – so, the processes of making files available to others after getting them and getting them – and magnet links take advantage of that.
The links connect users to anyone who has the file available for download. The web server the file originated from isn’t needed – in fact, if that server goes down or the file is deleted from it, the magnet link will still work, at least as long as at least one user in the network has the file and is seeding it. They also make it easier to give other people access to a file – by sharing the link instead of the entire file.