Transmission allows you to send and receive files via the BitTorrent protocol. This tutorial shows you how to use Transmission to run a “seedbox” - a server for downloading and seeding torrents.

(For an explanation of BitTorrent, see Appendix 1.)


The Transmission daemon is available in the Debian repositories:

apt install transmission-daemon

Besides installing Transmission, this command creates:



Any time you need to modify Transmission's configuration, you must stop the transmission-daemon service. Otherwise, Transmission will overwrite your changes.

service transmission-daemon stop

Open /var/lib/transmission-daemon/info/settings.json to view Transmission's configuration. The file should look something like this:

    "alt-speed-down": 50,
    "alt-speed-enabled": false,
    "alt-speed-time-begin": 540,
    "alt-speed-time-day": 127,
    "alt-speed-time-enabled": false,
    "alt-speed-time-end": 1020,
    "alt-speed-up": 50,
    "bind-address-ipv4": "",
    "bind-address-ipv6": "::",
    "blocklist-enabled": false,
    "blocklist-url": "",
    "cache-size-mb": 4,
    "dht-enabled": true,
    "download-dir": "/var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads",
    "download-limit": 100,
    "download-limit-enabled": 0,
    "download-queue-enabled": true,
    "download-queue-size": 5,
    "encryption": 1,
    "idle-seeding-limit": 30,
    "idle-seeding-limit-enabled": false,
    "incomplete-dir": "/var/lib/transmission-daemon/Downloads",
    "incomplete-dir-enabled": false,
    "lpd-enabled": false,
    "max-peers-global": 200,
    "message-level": 1,
    "peer-congestion-algorithm": "",
    "peer-id-ttl-hours": 6,
    "peer-limit-global": 200,
    "peer-limit-per-torrent": 50,
    "peer-port": 51413,
    "peer-port-random-high": 65535,
    "peer-port-random-low": 49152,
    "peer-port-random-on-start": false,
    "peer-socket-tos": "default",
    "pex-enabled": true,
    "port-forwarding-enabled": false,
    "preallocation": 1,
    "prefetch-enabled": true,
    "queue-stalled-enabled": true,
    "queue-stalled-minutes": 30,
    "ratio-limit": 2,
    "ratio-limit-enabled": false,
    "rename-partial-files": true,
    "rpc-authentication-required": true,
    "rpc-bind-address": "",
    "rpc-enabled": true,
    "rpc-host-whitelist": "",
    "rpc-host-whitelist-enabled": true,
    "rpc-password": "{224c4b5e26569d0baa8a161a68263253bbc69c26dnhxDeWg",
    "rpc-port": 9091,
    "rpc-url": "/transmission/",
    "rpc-username": "transmission",
    "rpc-whitelist": "",
    "rpc-whitelist-enabled": true,
    "scrape-paused-torrents-enabled": true,
    "script-torrent-done-enabled": false,
    "script-torrent-done-filename": "",
    "seed-queue-enabled": false,
    "seed-queue-size": 10,
    "speed-limit-down": 100,
    "speed-limit-down-enabled": false,
    "speed-limit-up": 100,
    "speed-limit-up-enabled": false,
    "start-added-torrents": true,
    "trash-original-torrent-files": false,
    "umask": 18,
    "upload-limit": 100,
    "upload-limit-enabled": 0,
    "upload-slots-per-torrent": 14,
    "utp-enabled": true

Here are the options you should definitely look at:

  1. download-dir specifies where Transmission should save downloaded torrents. (You can probably leave this at the default of /var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads.) If you change this, make sure debian-transmission has permissions to use the directory.
  2. peer-port specifies what port Transmission should listen on to connect to peers. (You can probably leave this at the default of 51413.)
  3. rpc-password specifies the password required to control Transmission. Change this by typing it in as plaintext. When the Transmission service starts, it will be hashed and prefixed with a left curly bracket ({).
  4. rpc-port specifies the port Transmission will listen on for remote commands. (You can probably leave this at the default of 9091, unless you have another service listening on this port for some reason.)
  5. rpc-username specifies the username required to control Transmission. The default is transmission, but feel free to change this.


If peer-port-random-on-start is set to the default of false, your firewall must allow TCP and UDP traffic on the peer-port. Assuming you are using ufw, and peer-port is at the default of 51413, enter:

ufw allow 51413

Note on Port Randomization

If you set peer-port-random-on-start to true, your firewall must allow both TCP and UDP traffic on the port range specified by peer-port-random-low and peer-port-random-high.

Assuming you are using ufw, and peer-port-random-high is 65535, and peer-port-random-low is 49152, enter:

ufw allow 49152:65535/tcp
ufw allow 49152:65535/udp

Starting the Service

After modifying and saving the transmission-daemon configuration, start the service:

service transmission-daemon start

Transmission will hash your password in the configuration. You should be able to connect to the daemon with transmission-remote locally on the server using your credentials as shown next.

Controlling Transmission Locally

transmission-daemon runs your torrent session in the background. It is controlled by an HTTP API that it serves on the rpc-port at localhost. transmission-remote is the command line utility you can use to control the daemon, and it was installed automatically when you installed transmission-daemon.


You first need to authenticate transmission-remote using the username and password you set up in settings.json. There are 2 basic ways you can do this.

.netrc File

The first method is via a .netrc file in your home directory. The advantage of this method is that you do not need to provide your credentials every time you run a transmission-remote command. The disadvantage is that your Transmission password is stored in your home folder as plaintext.

To add the necessary record to your .netrc file, run the following command, where <username> is the rpc-username, and <password> is the plaintext version of rpc-password in settings.json:

echo "machine localhost login <username> password <password>" >> ~/.netrc

Then, to authenticate, run:

transmission-remote --netrc

Subsequent transmission-remote commands will not require entering your credentials.

--auth Flag

The second method to authenticate is to include an auth flag in every transmission-remote command you execute. Substituting your credentials for username and password, you can enter the following command to list your torrents:

transmission-remote --auth=username:password --list

At this point, you should be able to use transmission-remote on your server to manage your torrents.

Hosting Torrents

Here is a cookbook of common transmission-remote commands for hosting torrents.

Add a torrent via a magnet link:

transmission-remote --add "magnet:link"

Add a torrent via a .torrent file:

transmission-remote --add "your.torrent"

List the status of your torrents (and get their numerical IDs):

transmission-remote --list

Get information about a specific torrent (where ID is the torrent ID from the prior command):

transmission-remote --torrent=ID --info

Remove a torrent and keep its data (where ID is the torrent ID):

transmission-remote --torrent=ID --remove

Remove a torrent and delete its data (where ID is the torrent ID):

transmission-remote --torrent=ID --remove-and-delete

Get information about the current Transmission session:

transmission-remote --session-info

Get statistics about the current Transmission session:

transmission-remote --session-stats

Downloading Completed Torrents via Secure Shell

Completed torrent downloads will be saved in the directory indicated by download-dir in your configuration. (This is /var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads by default.)

You should be able to download those files and directories from your seedbox using tools like rsync, (s)ftp, and scp.

If this is sufficient for you, you do not need to configure Transmission for remote access.

Creating New Torrents

transmission-create is used to create torrents. It was installed automatically on your server when you installed transmission-daemon. You can use it on any machine that has it installed and has a copy of the file or directory you want to share.

(transmission-edit is also available to edit .torrent files. It can do things like add and delete tracker urls. However, this tool tends to be more useful when working with other's .torrent files and less so when creating torrents from scratch.)

Creating the .torrent File

Here is a template command for creating a .torrent file:

transmission-create --outfile "my.torrent" \
                    --comment "My cool torrent" \
                    --tracker "" \
                    --tracker "" \

transmission-show is used to generate magnet links from .torrent files, and it was installed when you installed transmission-daemon. Given any .torrent file, you can run:

transmission-show --magnet "my.torrent"

Seeding Your New Torrent

First, copy the file or directory that you are hosting to the download directory (download-dir) specified in the transmission-daemon configuration. If the download-dir is at the default, you could write:

cp "the-file-or-directory-to-share" \

Then, add your torrent to Transmission via your .torrent file or magnet link:

transmission-remote --add "the-torrent-file-or-magnet-link"

Your server should begin seeding your torrent, and you can share it via the .torrent file or magnet link.

Warning: Make sure you copy the file or directory you are seeding to the download-dir directory before adding the torrent to Transmission. If you copy the source file/directory into your download directory after adding the torrent, run transmission-remote to get the ID of your torrent:

transmission-remote --list

Then, where ID is the ID of the torrent, run this command so Transmission will know it already has the data:

transmission-remote --torrent=ID --verify

The torrent should then begin seeding.

Controlling Transmission Remotely

At this point, you should be able to manage your seedbox locally by using transmission-remote on your server via secure shell. However, it may be convenient to also configure the box for remote access. You can do this by exposing Transmission's HTTP API, which includes a web app.

The Transmission web app acts as a graphical stand-in for transmission-remote. You can manage your torrents and the daemon with it.

Similar to transmission-remote itself, however, you cannot download completed torrents via the web app. (That requires serving the files via a different channel, whether that be rsync, sftp, scp, http(s), etc. Serving completed torrents via http(s) is explained later.)

Exposing Transmission's HTTP interface to the internet additionally allows you to control your seedbox from a different machine using transmission-remote.

Configuring Remote Access

By default, transmission-daemon only allows RPC commands from localhost. For remote access, it must allow connections from the IP addresses you want to access the daemon from. The most direct way of doing this is by disabling the whitelist, which allows all IP addresses, but you can specify a whitelist if you like.

Stop transmission-daemon:

service transmission-daemon stop

Then, set rpc-whitelist-enabled to false in your configuration. This makes it so that any IP address can connect and control transmission-daemon. (You will just need your rpc-username and the plaintext version of your rpc-password to authenticate.)

Alternatively, if you want to use the whitelist, set rpc-whitelist-enabled to true, and set rpc-whitelist to a comma-separated list of IP addresses. (Asterisks are used as wildcards.) For example, you could write:,89.72.*.221

While you have the configuration open, take note of the value of rpc-port, which is 9091 by default. This value will be necessary for configuring remote access.

After saving your configuration, start transmission-daemon:

service transmission-daemon start

Running Nginx as a Reverse Proxy

It is possible to open remote access to transmission-daemon simply by opening its rpc-port in the firewall, 9091 by default. This connection will be run over insecure HTTP, so your username and password will be sent unencrypted. While this may be acceptable when testing a system, it is generally preferable to use a web server with TLS as a reverse proxy to Transmission's HTTP interface.

If you are already running nginx with working TLS, allowing access to Transmission's web interface simply requires adding a location block to your server block in your nginx configuration. Assuming rpc-port is 9091, and rpc-url is /transmission/ in your transmission-daemon configuration, add the following block to your nginx configuration:

location /transmission/ {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:9091/transmission/ ;

Reload nginx so your changes takes effect:

nginx -s reload

At this point, if is your domain, and you are connected from a permitted IP address:

Serving Transmission at a Different Path

By default, Transmission serves it's interface at the path /transmission/. You can change this in the configuration, but note that your chosen path must start and end with a forward slash.

For example, to serve Transmission's interface at /~luke/torrents/:

  1. Stop the transmission-daemon service.
  2. Set rpc-url in the configuration to your chosen path. That is /~luke/torrents/ in this example.
  3. Modify the location block's path pattern and proxy_pass url in your nginx configuration to use the new path (and the correct rpc-port). For this example, that is:
location /~luke/torrents/ {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:9091/~luke/torrents/ ;
  1. Start the transmission-daemon service.
  2. Reload nginx.

The Transmission web app will then be accessible at transmission-remote will be able to connect to

Connecting via a Browser

Where is your website, and /transmission/ is the rpc-url in your transmission-daemon configuration, point your web browser to After entering your credentials into the login (using your rpc-username and plaintext rpc-password), you will be greeted by the web interface with a list of your torrents.

Here is a Transmission instance that is downloading one torrent:

A screenshot of the Transmission web interface

Connecting via Transmission-Remote

You can control transmission-daemon on your server from other machines that have transmission-remote installed. You do this by calling transmission-remote with a url consisting of the domain name (or IP), the rpc-port, and the path specified by rpc-url in the configuration (/transmission/ by default) with the trailing forward slash omitted. For example, after inserting your credentials for username and password, assuming the rpc-url is at the default of /transmission/, you could invoke the following command on your local machine to list the status of the torrents on your server:

transmission-remote \
                    --auth=username:password \

Note how the rpc-url is /transmission/, but /transmission is specified in the command.

Warning: The Transmission web app and transmission-remote both allow you to make changes to Transmission's port settings. Be careful change these, because you might also need to update your server's firewall configuration.

Serving Complete Torrent Downloads via HTTP(S)

The Transmission web interface and transmission-remote do not allow you to download completed torrents from your seedbox via HTTP(S). However, in some scenarios, downloading via HTTP(S) may be preferable where shell access and other supporting tools (rsync, scp, sftp, ftp, etc.) are unavailable on the client machine. Serving completed torrent downloads involves configuring nginx to serve the download-dir of transmission-daemon.

(Serving completed torrent downloads via HTTP(S) does not require exposing Transmission's HTTP API and web app.)

Warning: The Transmission interfaces give you the option of saving completed torrent downloads to directories other than the download-dir specified in your transmission-daemon configuration. Downloading a torrent to a different directory and not serving that directory with nginx will prevent that completed torrent from being served to clients via the static file server shown here.

Assuming you wish to serve your completed torrents from the directory /downloads/ on your web server, and download-dir is at the default of /var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads/, you can add this location block into the server block of your nginx configuration:

location /downloads {
    root /var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads ;
    proxy_max_temp_file_size 0 ;
    autoindex on ;

Note how the trailing forward slash has been omitted in both the location pattern and the root path.

The proxy_max_temp_file_size option prevents disk caching that would potentially break nginx's ability to serve files larger than a few gigabytes.

If you omit the autoindex option or set it to off, nginx will not show a directory listing of your downloaded torrents. (You will need the direct link to download a given torrent.)

After saving the configuration, reload nginx.

Where is your website, and assuming autoindex is on, opening in a web browser should show a list of links to download your completed torrents.

While downloading via HTTP(S) can be convenient, resuming interrupted downloads can be a nuisance. See Appendix 2 for tips on how to combat this.

Preventing Unauthorized Downloading

If you want to prevent others from downloading completed torrents via HTTP(S) from your seedbox, you have a few options:

  1. When defining the nginx location block, you can use some random string for the path match pattern, like /DJRmdL8HPn. Only those who know the path will able to download your completed torrents.
  2. You can protect the directory with a username and password using HTTP basic authentication.


journalctl can be used to view the logs of transmission-daemon. For example, you could run:

journalctl | grep transmission-daemon

Transmission's documentation contains help and answers to common questions.

Appendix 1: What is BitTorrent?

Many protocols for sending files over the internet, such as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), operate on a "client-server" (or "server-client") model. A server will store a file. A client will send a request for the file from the server. If the request is accepted, the server will respond with the file.

In contrast, BitTorrent is a decentralized, peer-to-peer, file-sharing protocol. Instead of relying on a dedicated server, a file will be assembled by downloading it in chunks from many different hosts. Anyone who has the file (or pieces of it) can then help serve the file to others. This makes file-sharing via BitTorrent much less susceptible to data loss and downtime than the client-server model since the file can be replicated and shared across a potentially large number of independent hosts.

The individual hosts are called "peers". The process of a host offering their copy of the file for download to others is called "seeding". The set of peers collectively hosting the file is called a "swarm".

The peers usually find out about each other using "trackers", dedicated servers that help peers find those who possess or want a specific file. Trackers are identified by URLs. A peer can "announce" to a tracker that it possesses a specific file. If a peer wants to download a file, the peer can ask the tracker for peers that possess the file. Trackers do not actually transfer the torrent between peers. They simply facilitate peer-discovery.

The BitTorrent network also uses other mechanisms for peer-discovery, including a "DHT", or Distributed Hash Table. Similar to trackers, these help peers find each other. Unlike trackers, a DHT is entirely peer-to-peer as it is based on a distributed data structure rather than a dedicated server. The DHT that BitTorrent uses is called the Mainline DHT. Most modern torrent clients will give you the option of using it to help you find peers. (Transmission supports it.)

Before downloading a desired file or directory, you will need its .torrent file or magnet link. These are usually distributed via webpages, and they contain metadata and other information required for downloading the file, including:

Once the .torrent file or magnet link has been imported into a torrent client, the client will query the network to discover peers that possess the file. The swarm will then work together to send the user the file in chunks. The chunks will be cryptographically validated and assembled to create the final file. After the user has downloaded the file (or even if they only have pieces of it), they also can be part of the swarm by helping to seed the file to others who want it.

"Leeching" is when a user downloads torrents and does not seed them to others. This practice hurts the overall functioning of the swarm and will also usually reduce the bandwidth that other peers are willing to dedicate to you in the future. Always reseed. 🌱

Appendix 2: Reliable Downloading via HTTP(S)

Downloading via HTTP(S) can be very convenient when shell access is unavailable. It can also be very troublesome with large files due to interrupted or corrupted downloads. Thankfully, utilities like wget and zsync can help combat this.


wget supports resuming interrupted downloads. It isn't as robust for this use case as other utilities (like zsync), but it can be convenient because:

Supposing you want to download a very large file from your web server and save it to your current directory, you might run:


If this command is stopped or interrupted, running it again with the --continue flag will cause wget to resume your download:

wget --continue

If your network connection is particularly poor, you can also specify the --tries=0 flag. wget will retry connecting indefinitely, so you don't need to run the command multiple times if it disconnects.

One major downside of using wget is that the resumption of the download is based on the difference between the file length on the server and the length of the partial file on your disk. No cryptography or checksum is used to validate the file’s integrity.

wget also supports downloading directories, but this can be finicky. You might need to experiment with the arguments depending on the contents of the directory. For example, assuming directory listing is enabled in the relevant directory on your web server, you might run a command like:

wget --recursive --no-parent \

The --recursive flag indicates that wget should download the contents of the directory as well as its subdirectories up to 5 levels deep.

The --no-parent flag indicates that wget should not download any files at higher levels in the directory hierarchy.

Note: Enabling autoindex for a directory in nginx implicitly creates index.html files in the directory and its subdirectories from the perspective of HTTP(S) clients like wget. However, the --reject index.html flag is omitted in the above command because wget needs the links in those index files to download all of the files in the target directory. (In fact, for this reason, the above command might potentially fail to download all the files in the directory if the target directory contains index.html files.) Once the directory has been downloaded to your disk, you would then need to delete the index.html files that were created by the web server’s directory listing in your downloaded copy. Additionally, the actual directory structure created on your disk with this example would be, not large-directory/.


zsync is another option for more reliable HTTP(S) downloading.

The advantages of zsync include:

The disadvantages of zsync include:

zsync is available in the Debian repositories. Install it on your server by running:

apt install zsync

(You will also need to install it on your client machine.)

On your server, change your directory to your torrent download directory, /var/lib/transmission-daemon/downloads/ by default. Then, run zsyncmake by providing the url and name of the file you want to use zsync on:

zsyncmake -u "" large.file

This will create a new file with the same name as your original file but with the .zsync extension added: large.file.zsync in this case. (Note that if the file you are sharing changes, you need to regenerate the .zsync file.)

If you view your torrent download directory in a browser, and nginx has autoindex turned on, you should notice the addition of the .zsync file in the directory.

On your HTTP(S) client, where the provided url is the link to the new .zsync file, run:

zsync ""

If your download is interrupted, just run the command again, and zsync will read your partial download, resume it, checksum it, and cleanly assemble the target file, large.file.

If your downloads directory is protected with HTTP basic authentication, you can specify your credentials by adding an -A flag before the URL:

zsync -A \

If you have a piece of the file with a different name or a different version of the file, you can specify those pieces with the -i flag to potentially reduce what zsync needs to fetch over the network:

zsync -i "large.file.piece" -i "large.file.old" \

zsync will attempt to look for file chunks in large.file.piece and large.file.old that can be used to help assemble large.file.

For example, if you have a Linux ISO on your computer, and you want to download an updated version from your seedbox, there's a good chance that only certain sections of the ISO changed from the version you already have. You can specify the old version of the ISO you have with the -i flag to potentially reuse chunks from the old version when downloading the new ISO.

Written by: Luke Hamann