How to Get Torrent Magnet Links to Work in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome

Torrents enable you to download or share LEGAL (don’t download copyrighted content!) files with multiple peers all around the world. Rather than rely on the integrity of a single server, you share the load across numerous users instead. This potentially makes downloads faster and more reliable. As such, Linux often distributes versions via torrents and even Microsoft has started using similar P2P technology for updates in Windows 10.

Magnet links help facilitate using torrents by simply clicking a link. This vastly improves upon the traditional approach of downloading .torrent files and then loading them into your torrent application. Basically, all the information that’s required is transmitted in the link without a separate download required.

The Problem


The problem lies in getting your browser to recognize the “magnet:?xt=” links, because simply installing a torrent application may not set the appropriate associations. This is doubly true if you use a portable version. Therefore, Firefox and Chrome might fail to recognize the link and Internet Explorer will try to search Bing for something related with the link text. And not even Firefox currently lets you modify the Applications list to include the magnet protocol if it’s not already there.

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Firefox won’t understand magnet links unless an association is set in Windows.

As it turns out, the problem isn’t in your browser, at least for most people. The problem is in Windows and the failure of the torrent application to set an association for magnet links. So this article will walk you through setting that association, so you can download [legal] torrents with a single click.

The Solution


1. Close your torrent application if it’s currently running.

2. Right-click the torrent application, shortcut or Start entry and select Run as Administrator.
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Don’t skip this step! The program won’t be able to set an association unless you temporarily give it administrative privileges. In this example, I’m using the open source qBittorrent, but you could use another torrent application; most will have similar settings somewhere in their preferences.

3. Open the torrent application’s Options or Preferences.
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In qBittorrent, this is done by clicking Tools > Options or pressing Alt-O.

4. Locate and check the option to associate the program with magnet links.
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In qBittorrent, click Behavior > Use qBittorrent for Magnet Links > Apply.

5. Close the Settings window and then the torrent application. You won’t need to (and shouldn’t) run it in administrator mode any more; it was only needed for that one setting to take hold.

6. Choose to allow your browser to accept your torrent application for magnet links and have it remember your selection if you don’t want to see a popup window each time you click a magnet link.

In the browser examples below, I’m attempting to open a Linux distribution from a popular site designed for Linux torrents, but the results will be the same regardless of the site or torrent, as long as it’s a properly formatted magnet link:

Firefox

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In Firefox, after clicking your first magnet link, you’re presented with this window. Select your torrent application, optionally check Remember My Choice for Magnet Links and click Open Link.


Internet Explorer

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In Internet Explorer, you’re presented a similar window, minus the option to choose applications. Optionally check Remember My Choice for Magnet Links and click Open Link.

Chrome

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In Chrome, you’re also presented a window without application options. Optionally check Remember My Choice for All Links of This Type and click Launch Application.

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