Why does my wifi connection go out when my torrent client is doing its thing?
July 3, 2010 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Lately, whenever I open my torrent client (Utorrent) and start downloading stuff, my internet connection just stops. What the hell?

I still have all my Wifi bars, but all of a sudden I can't load any pages. Has this ever happened to anyone else? I've been using utorrent for a couple of years now and haven't had any problems. I have a macbook pro and a somewhat old (but, outside of this problem, functional from what I can tell) linskys router.
posted by earlofrochester to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may need to limit the amount of connections utorrent can open either globally or per torrent. Globally I'm at 75, and max per torrent is 40. I believe it's a limitation with the router primarily before the internet connection.
posted by liquoredonlife at 10:26 AM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, liquoredonlinfe. Just set it to those parameters, let's see if it works.
posted by earlofrochester at 10:36 AM on July 3, 2010

Is your upload speed set to unlimited? That mistake that can easily slow the rest of your internet browsing to a crawl.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:50 AM on July 3, 2010

Who is your ISP? Are they touchy about torrents? They may be detecting bittorrent traffic and killing your connection because of it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:00 AM on July 3, 2010

If your download speed is above 300ish kbps it can kill browser connectivity for sure. I either run my torrents while I'm sleeping or throttle them to ~200 kbps if I am online doing other things. you can usually right-click on a specific torrent and set upload and download speed limits for them individually.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:02 AM on July 3, 2010

it could be all the things mentioned. i found lots of vague notes about having too many active connections and windows freaks the fuck out. browsing would just stop working, even though my modem was happy as a clam. sometimes utorrent would stop, but not always.

i tried all sorts of different things, and then i got rid of my sunbelt-keiro firewall and switched to comodo. haven't had that problem since.
posted by nadawi at 11:27 AM on July 3, 2010

Response by poster: Comcast is my ISP...I was worried about that. Is there any way to tell if that's what's going on?

Just checked my down and upload speeds, and they weren't set at anything...there's an option to set a limit, and I didn't have that clicked. Gonna try that right now (is 150 limit a good bet?), thanks everyone.
posted by earlofrochester at 11:28 AM on July 3, 2010

At the top of your uTorrent window, you have a bar with #, Name, Size, etc. Right-click on it and select "Down Speed" to get a column which will tell you how fast your torrents are downloading.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2010

I doubt Comcast is cutting off your BT traffic. They just settled late last year in a class-action lawsuit for throttling torrents. I got a letter offering me $16!

You used to be able to run a test at this site, you might be able to find something similar still up and running. Great analysis at any rate.
posted by ista at 11:44 AM on July 3, 2010

Number of connections is a real killer, it fills up the routing table on crappy consumer-grade devices like Linksys. Upload speed should be throttled as well, if you max that out your internet will appear to stop working unless you have QoS going to give priority to other traffic.
posted by cj_ at 11:57 AM on July 3, 2010

It's much much more common for cheap wifi to get overloaded with connections than it is for Comcast to notice you.
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on July 3, 2010

Nthing number of connections. If I want a torrent to go faster than normal, I set the max connections and connections per torrent up to a thousand or more and it kills the internet connection for anything else, even after I set the connection limit back down to normal. I often have to restart the router to get it running again. Linksys on Comcast, here.
posted by stavrogin at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2010

Comcast doesn't kill your connection if they sense you're using torrents, but they do have a "silent" cap of about ~250GB a month. (Something that they definitely don't advertise since they know it will piss off consumers.)

If you torrent a lot, you might want to keep that in mind. I've never run into trouble, but it does make me shy away from using Netflix as background noise while I'm studying.

Old link: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/08/its-official-comcast-starts-250gb-bandwidth-caps-october-1.ars

(Just to be clear, this isn't your problem.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2010

I had exactly this problem, and I'm on Comcast too; I turned on "ignore unencrypted peers" (your client may call this something else) and now my torrents download much faster and my other connections don't drop — hell, now they doesn't even slow down much. Sorry, folks, but I strongly believe Comcast is throttling connections when it sees torrent traffic.
posted by nicwolff at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2010

Note: now that I accept only encrypted peers I've had 1.6MB/s downloading without severely degrading my other connections; speedtest.net says my total download bandwidth is about 15 Mb/s here on Comcast in Truro on Cape Cod.
posted by nicwolff at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2010

hm, I must give that a try, thanks nicwolff. Not on Comcast but I have my suspicions about my ISP.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2010

More evidence that Comcast is throttling: when I was accepting unencrypted peers, it took 5-10 minutes after I stopped BitTorrenting for other connections to work again. I've been a TCP/IP network engineer for a lotta years, and (except for DNS and routing flaps) that just isn't how last-mile congestion normally works.
posted by nicwolff at 1:09 PM on July 3, 2010

nthing number of connections + router. I used to regularly kill my Graphite Airport this way. To recover, power cycle or reboot the router, and set a lower number of max connections in your client.
posted by zippy at 4:26 PM on July 3, 2010

Doesn't this recent ruling mean that ISP's are now free to start throttling again?

I have, at one point or another, tried every bit of advice above to restore internet access in my house of ten people. We first got all the torrent client users to limit numbers of connections, limit up/down speed, etc. We then got new hardware that is supposed to do a lot better with the heavy load that numerous torrent clients create. We even got DSL (Qwest) for one side of the house and kept cable (Comcast) on the other to try out the different services. There are two people situated so that they can use both networks, but the house is huge and most rooms can only get signal from one of the routers. For a few months, things were working really well on both sides of the house.

For the past two months, the Comcast side of the house (my side) has been absolutely terrible. I run the networks (set up and maintain the hardware/have the passwords) and a few times in the middle of the night, out of pure frustration, I've kicked off every computer that I know is associated with torrent use. This has nearly instantly restored access. It's possible that some people have changed their settings again, but we generally have a lot of respect for each other and I think that is unlikely.

The DSL side of the house is doing great, but as far as I know no one on that side torrents, so that doesn't say much. I should really switch which modem goes to which router and see what happens.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2010

Comcast absolutely throttles, no matter their official story. I verified this easily by tunneling the connections over SSL on port 443 to make it appear legitimate traffic.

I suggest Usenet, honestly.
posted by cj_ at 11:46 PM on July 3, 2010

Comcast absolutely throttles, no matter their official story. I verified this easily by tunneling the connections over SSL on port 443 to make it appear legitimate traffic.

Would tunneling make the many separate up/down connections look like a single one to your router? If so, that would minimize the amount of state your router would have to keep track of, which could in turn result in the performance gain.
posted by zippy at 12:11 AM on July 6, 2010

Well I had this recur while using encrypted peers, so though I'm not going to rule out throttling by Comcast, I'm also going to try (and recommend) limiting total connections to 100 or so.
posted by nicwolff at 6:19 PM on July 7, 2010

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