Downloading Files from IRC

by Jolo\@EFnet with help from many others, updated Feb 5, 2006

Trying to learn how to trade files on IRC? Please read this all the way through. The answers are all here. If you skim along just looking for easy ways to get files, you won't find any, because it's not a trivial subject. If you are patient and read carefully, however, you can learn the truth of how many people use IRC to trade files. This file also addresses many common problems like when you see "DCC pending" but nothing happens.

Just the Facts

Using IRC to download copyrighted files (songs, movies, games, pornography, "warez", "cracks", etc.) is potentially:

  1. Illegal. Most countries have laws against file trading. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cop, I don't care what you do, I'm just telling you the facts. In case you haven't heard, there have been many cases of government and recording industry actions against individuals including young kids, ranging from jail time to large cash settlements.

  2. Dangerous. Downloading from strangers (especially fellow law breakers) can be as risky as opening email attachments blindly. New IRC useres are often infected with viruses and trojan horse attacks. Defenses like backups, anti-virus software, and firewalls can be helpful, but are never foolproof.

  3. Difficult. IRC file trading isn't rocket science, but it is a relatively advanced subject. It takes experience and patience. You cannot install some dummy-proof application and start downloading files minutes later.

Enough with the lecture, how do I do it?

You must first learn how IRC works. There is no shortcut! Read help files for the commands, chat with lots of people, make friends and contacts. That's the simple, honest truth. We invite you to peruse our many general FAQs and guides. You should learn all about IRC security, especially trojan horse attacks and denial of service attacks which are common among IRC file traders.

Once you learn all that, the actual file trading is straightforward. You connect to the right server, join the right channel, find the right people, and send the right command to request a file. They send it to you, a window pops up, you hit the "accept" button or some such, presto, you're done. The trick is finding the trustworthy sender in the first place. Remember: There is no official, centralized list of files, no comprehensive list of channels to trade files, and no standardized commands for getting files.

You can try the /list command to see public channels once you connect to a particular network, or use the web-based multi-network channel search. Once you get on the channel, you'll have to ask the people there for the non-standard, special commands for listing and getting files. Don't go typing "!list" or other commands blindly, you'll just get kicked out for acting like a "newbie".

Troubleshooting for Specific Problems

Why can't I get a file? or Why does it keep saying: "You have a DCC pending, Set your client to receive the transfer..."? or Why does my status screen say "DCC send rejected... file type ignored"? So you request a file but nothing seems to happen. First, ask a friend to DCC send you a text file. There's no point in going further until that works. If that works, then the problem may be mIRC's automatic ignoring of all but a few "safe" file types for your own protection against virus and trojan horse attacks. This protective feature is there for a good reason. To modify those settings, see the official FAQ on problems with receiving files [ext. link]. Whatever you do, don't auto-get and don't disable file ignoring entirely, because then you are just opening yourself up to all kinds of dangers. Instead, add in the safe file types you are sure about, such as "*.mpg" or whatever. If you've done all that and the file still won't come through, chances are the sender is having firewall problems, which is very often the case these days, see the next question.

Why can't I send a file? Is this a new problem? If you used to be able to send files just fine, then think about what you changed recently. Did you switch to a new ISP, start sharing your connection among multiple PCs, install a router, load up a software firewall? Often these factors affect your ability to have identd and DCC send or initiate a DCC chat (although you can still DCC get or receive a chat). See our firewall guide for more info.

How can I speed up the DCC get or download? Short version: You can't. There are no commands for you to speed up your DCC get (anybody claiming otherwise is usually ignorant or trying to give you a trojan horse virus). Stop downloading from elsewhere to free up your bandwidth, or get a faster ISP, but that's about it. There are commands for a sender to optimize his sending speed (see next question), but most file servers are already sending as fast as they can, there's just too many people getting files from them at the same time and splitting up their finite available bandwidth. Also, DCC was never designed for large file transfers; it is relatively inefficient and error prone.

How can I speed up a DCC send? Short version: generally you're limited by the same factors described above. If you have a very fast, stable connection, sometimes you can improve that efficiency a little by adjusting your client parameters, e.g., in mIRC, the sender can type /fsend on and /dcc packetsize 4096. As explained above, those commands do not affect DCC get speeds.

Why can't I join #cracks (or other warez channel)? Channels that deal in warez are sometimes invite-only as a result of being attacked by enemies, or just to keep the channel more manageable. If you can't figure out how to get your illegal serials update or whatever after reading the above guide, then you're on your own.

What are the commands for listing / getting files? On several occasions I've already said there are no standardized commands, since file trading is an individual activity, not a standard part of IRC. I suggest you stop skimming around and go back and re-read this guide carefully, or else you are wasting your own time.

How do I get multiple files at the same time? Again, there are no standardized commands. There are some scripts out there that will automate the process for you, but certainly none that a responsible help channel would recommend due to problems with bugs, bloat (unnecessary features that slow down or break your IRC progarm), or security backdoors. Our best advice is to be patient and just get the files one at a time.

How do I set up a file server? I can tell you how not to - don't go downloading some big script just to serve files, at least not right away. These big scripts slow down your IRC client, can contain serious bugs that make you crash, and even security flaws that get you "hacked". Instead, start easy with the feature that are built into your IRC client already, such as /fserve for mIRC. Here are some bare bones startup tips.

If any of the above is still confusing, feel free to ask. Just remember, we're volunteer helpers who seek to promote the proper and safe use of IRC, and we will not knowingly help you break the law or get yourself attacked. That is true of all mainstream help channels like #IRChelp, #mirc, #mirchelp, #help, etc., so please don't hop from one to the next asking how to get files.

Finally, to learn more about P2P file-sharing issues, check out the Electronic Frontier Frontation's Let the Music Play advocacy site, or the RIAA's educational site Soundbyting.