Yeah, file sharing is evil, but we all do it. I guess we're all going to hell.
If you are going to download shared files on the Internet, the first thing you need is a software program like BitTorrent. There are other torrent software packages, but BitTorrent is the most popular by far.
What is BitTorrent? Essentially, it's an Internet protocol which makes it possible to download very large files very quickly. It is also referred to as P2P or peer-to-peer file sharing. This means that you don't download the file from one single location, but rather you download small bits of the file from various locations that have the file available for download.
The software doesn't cost anything, but unless the files you are downloading are truly free and not copyright protected, you are committing a crime. If you are OK with that (most of the world seems to be), then we list some popular sites below.
Before starting to use BitTorrent, I checked with several of the Internet service providers in my area regarding their broadband fair use policies. The cable companies seemed to be quite strict on their bandwidth usage, while Verizon FiOS was rather lenient. Of course, all Internet providers frown on the use of P2P torrent downloads, even Verizon, but since it's basically the crime everyone is committing, they only go after those who practice excessive use.
One example that was recently pointed out on ArsTechnica was of a man in California who finally got a call from Verizon after he averaged 50 TB of data per month for several months is a row. That's TB (terabytes), not GB (gigabytes)! He was running a P2P networking from his home using his standard Verizon FiOS account. That's how much it took for them to finally call him about it!
Most of us won't use nearly that amount of bandwidth. Still, it's important to know that your ISP might come after you for excessive use of bandwidth. Also, people who download tons of files for free that are copyright protected are at greater risk of being targeting by the copyright owners.
While most ISPs (cable, dsl, fiber-optic) are perfect for using BitTorrent or other P2P file sharing programs, one to watch out for is satellite.
Most satellite Internet providers are very restricted on bandwidth. Users who download even a few large files will quickly find themselves connected to the Internet at greatly reduced speeds. This is part of the fair use policies of all major satellite Internet companies in the U.S., including HughesNet, Exede, and the relatively new DISH Internet service.