If you are a Bit Torrent downloader, you know what slow download speeds are like...frustrating and annoying, to say the least. Instead of getting your music or movie within a couple of hours, your software predicts it will take 2 to 4 days.

Now, while many of the speed factors involved are out of your control, there is at least one thing you can do at your receiving end to improve this speed. It is called "Port Forwarding", or "opening your specific TCP ports". This is how it works.

1) That blue or green network cable coming out of your computer/modem/router is actually a busy highway comprised of 65,536 tiny electronic lanes (yes, over sixty-five thousand little lanes for your electrons). Each lane is called a "port", and each port is designed to allow only specific types of information through.

Many ports are assigned in a semi-standardized way. Here are some example port assignments:

* HTML pages: port 80
* FTP file transferring: port 21
* World of Warcraft: port 3724
* POP3 email: port 110
* MSN Messenger: port 6901 and ports 6891-6900
* Everquest: port 1024
* Bit Torrents: port 6881

2) Bit torrents, by default, first look for port 6881 to enter/exit your computer. If port 6881 is closed for whatever reason, torrents then go to port 6882, then 6883, and so on, until it eventually tries port 6999 before giving up.

3) Every ISP, and every home router, can optionally block any of these ports with the intention of preventing hackers and controlling the network.

4) If you tell your own personal router and firewall at home to open (aka "forward") port 6881 and port 6882, then your bit torrents will find their way into your computer that much faster. Sometimes up to 5x faster.

Yes, opening ports does increase the possibility of getting hacked by unwanted bad guys, but there are means to reduce that threat while still getting fast torrent download speeds.