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I love trying out new music, but if I actually bought everything I load onto my iPod on iTunes or CD, I would be permanently broke! Luckily for me there are ways and means to get music without paying a penny, one of these being peer-to-peer sharing.
I should point out that Limewire is not ENTIRELY legal. Okay, so downloading the programme is legal, and the concept of sharing files with others is legal - you could be sharing music you yourself have recorded, text documents you have written, etc. Sharing music which is copyrighted IS illegal, unless it was recorded before the 1950s, in which case its copyright has expired. That isn't to say that nobody does it, I would be willing to bet that 99% of Limewire users download music on it, and you are only likely to get caught if you take your computer for repair, for example, and they see tracks you have downloaded onto it. You are more likely to get caught if you also let other users share your own music. I have been using Limewire for years, as have a lot of my friends, and I have never heard of anyone getting caught and being made to pay a fine. That isn't to say that it doesn't happen. Warning over!
Anyway, let me explain some more about the programme. The programme can be downloaded and installed quickly onto Windows, Mac or Linux machines. You can find it at www.limewire.com. The website (and indeed the programme itself) does try to push Limewire Pro onto you, for which you pay $13.95 (around £7) and receive "tech support and updates". To be honest I don't see any advantages as basic works just fine for me!
Once installed, you are able to perform searches for audio, video, text, programmes or pictures. You can give as much detail as you want, eg just the artist's name, song name or album, or all, which will narrow down your results further. Music especially is often labelled incorrectly so it's sometimes best to try a broader search first. It can take a little time to get the hang of searching for good results. Of course, you are downloading files which other users are offering, so if you want a quite obscure file (often album tracks which aren't so popular), you might not find it the first try, but later there could be several versions, depending who is currently logged onto the programme.
Download speed depends on how fast your internet is, and how fast the internet of the person offering the file is. This is listed in the search results. I have fast internet, and often download tracks in less than a minute - although some seem to lag and take up to half an hour! Occasionally a user offering a file will log off halfway through your download and you will need to find a different user offering the same version to pick up where you left off. Generally speaking, for me, downloads are fast enough that this rarely happens. You can alter your options so that music you have downloaded (and which is on your computer already) can be available for others to download, or not, I find this slows down your own download speed considerably so have disabled the option.
Of course, there are some drawbacks. Firstly, safety. As you can imagine, downloading files from complete strangers can be risky. I personally have never had any problems, but I strongly, strongly advise decent virus protection on your computer before using peer-to-peer file sharing. If you have a firewall enabled it could affect Limewire's performance, but the in-programme help is pretty comprehensive, and the programme itself is easy to use. I have occasionally had a message from Limewire pop up telling me that a file could be potentially risky, and as such have immediately stopped the download. I wouldn't really recommend downloading programmes, as in my opinion they are more likely to be risky.
Secondly, there are some quite, risque shall we say, results for the searches, luring you to download a file which is (probably) a virus. It is generally the same phrase, involving a "cute girl", along with whatever words you searched for. Just ignore it, your actual results will follow! You can tell by the size of the file (very small and in KB as opposed to MB) that it is not a real music file.
The other problem is occasionally downloading a dud version, eg one that cuts of halfway through, one that is just a bad recording or recorded off the radio with the DJ at the beginning. I'd say this happens about 5 out of 100 times.
I have used Limewire for countless albums, and my computer still runs really well, no viruses, no problems, only money in my pocket!! If your computer is not well protected, don't risk it, and I'm not endorsing illegal file-sharing, but really...everyone does!