Three Ways to Get Free Usenet
There are a few ways to get Usenet for free. As you’d expect, none of these ways are as easy or as high-quality as signing up for premium (paid) access, but free is free! In this post we discuss the three best methods for how you can get free Usenet access.
Whether free Usenet is suitable for you also depends on your needs. If you want access to Usenet newsgroups mostly for the purposes of reading and posting text messages, then the methods below for free Usenet will be perfectly fine.
These same methods can also be used to access the alt.binaries (media files) newsgroups for audio, images and videos, but may be good only for a short period of time or be a bit “hit and miss”. You’re likely better off signing up for a reputable premium Usenet provider, especially if you want to use it as a safer substitute for torrent file-sharing. This doesn’t have to be expensive as plans start at around $9 a month for full uncensored access to 100,000+ newsgroups, including thousands of the binaries newsgroups.
Free Usenet Method #1: Free Trials
Most Usenet providers are willing to give you a free trial account. This is usually for a certain number of days or for downloading a certain amount of data, whichever comes first. For example, Newshosting offers a generous & fully functional free trial of 14 days / 30 GB. Other providers such as EasyNews and UsenetServer each offer free trials of 14 days / 10 GB.
Leading Usenet providers are willing to offer free trial accounts in the hopes that you enjoy their service and decide to stay on with them after the trial period. The fierce competition for your Usenet dollars means that the free trial deals are very good.
As you have no obligation to keep using the service, a free trial is a great way to get Usenet for free at least for a limited time. With up to 14 days or 30 GB, that’s plenty of opportunity to get lots of goodies as the trials are usually not restricted in any other way and provide you with full uncensored access to all the newsgroups they carry, including the binary newsgroups.
- to see if they carry the newsgroups you are interested in, search and browse their available newsgroups
Free Usenet Method #2: Use Open News Servers
Another way to access Usenet newsgroups for free is by using open news servers. Open news servers are free Usenet servers that are publicly accessible (sometimes by accident). You can access them at no cost, but they usually have a limited number of newsgroups.
Some open news servers are operated by educational institutions or Usenet enthusiasts while others were intended to be closed (non-public) servers but were configured incorrectly. Using an open news server is often slow but can provide you with free access to newsgroups.
You can find lists of open news servers on the web or, if you are an advanced user, you can find open news servers on your own by using a NNTP sniffer app to find them (see Method #3 below).
Below are some directories of open news servers. Many links of this nature may be temporary or come and go. If you get dead links when exploring these sites, keep drilling down the list or type “open news servers” in your favorite search engine.
- Open Directory Project (dmoz) List of Open Public News Servers» is a good list of open news server sites.
- Publicly Accessible Free Usenet News Servers» is a comprehensive and up-to-date site packed full of information that lets you search for specific newsgroups on open free Usenet servers.
Please note that your ability to access open news servers may vary. This happens for a number of technical reasons and means that although your friend may be able to access a particular open news server you may not be able to.
How to Use an Open News Server
To use an open (free) Usenet server, change your newsreader app’s News Server or NNTP setting (look under menu items such as Settings, Options or Preferences). In that box, type in the NNTP address of the specific open news server you want to use.
For example, if you want to try one of the open news servers listed in the sites above, you would enter the corresponding NNTP address (see screenshot).
Figure: Look for a place to enter the NNTP address in your newsreader app’s Settings, Options or Preferences
Using this open news server, you can obtain a full list of its available newsgroups, subscribe to newsgroups and retrieve (read) messages, sometimes including binaries. You may even be able to post Usenet messages through some open news servers.
Top Tip – Never post through an open news server unless you are certain that no traceable information will appear in any of the message headers. The only way to be sure about this is to post a test message, retrieve it and carefully look at its full headers. The appropriate newsgroup for this is alt.test. Please follow proper Usenet etiquette and insert the word ignore in the post’s subject line. Furthermore, even if you are posting through an open news server which is currently not passing traceable information in the message headers, this can change at any time due to technical reasons or changes made by the system operator. This is why you should always first post a test message to check what information is appearing in the headers before posting messages.
Free Usenet Method #3: Find Open News Servers Yourself (Advanced Users)
Another way to gain free access to Usenet newsgroups is to find open news servers yourself. You can do this using a so-called NNTP sniffer app. In fact, the operators maintaining the open news server directories under method #2 above are using similar apps and tools to generate their listings.
Using an NNTP Sniffer App
An NNTP sniffer app helps you track down open news servers. Because you perform the search, this method has the advantage of finding open news servers that are accessible for your particular setup and circumstances. Recall from earlier that access to open news servers may vary from user to user for a number of technical reasons (your location, ISP, load on the servers, time of day, etc).
An NNTP sniffer app uses your own connection as a starting point and tries to find as many news servers as it can. Then, the app tests each one to see which are open to you.
Depending on the app, usually you will need to enter a starting NNTP news server address and a newsgroup that the news server carries. If you have Usenet access through your ISP, you can enter your news server (news.example.com) and use the alt.test newsgroup, or some other newsgroup that you know your starting news server carries. If you do not have Usenet access, find an open news server on one of the listings mentioned under method #2 above and enter its NNTP address as the starting news server in the sniffer app.
From there, the app will do the rest of the hard work, presenting you with a list of available open news servers and the newsgroups they carry. Depending on the functionality of the app, it may also tell you which servers carry binaries and allow posting, as well as perhaps the estimated download speeds and retention periods.
! Warning ! – Some ISPs consider the use of NNTP sniffer apps as an undesirable activity (some may even liken it to a form of “hacking”) so please first carefully read your ISP’s Terms of Service to make sure that you are not prohibited from using sniffer apps. Do not try using a NNTP sniffer app if you have any doubts.
The screenshots below (with the server name results blurred out) are for the NNTP sniffer app software News Hunter 4 (free) http://news-hunter.software.informer.com/4.0/. If this link doesn’t work, try typing “News Hunter 4 NNTP” in your favorite search engine or torrent index search to find the app.
Figure: The sniffer app will start probing news servers to determine whether they are open to you
Figure: When the sniffer app is finished, you will be presented with a list of available open news servers and some of their features
Figure: The sniffer app lets you browse and search among the available newsgroups on the open news server it found
Figure: This open news server carries many binaries newsgroups and even allows posting (remember, you should only post to Usenet if you know what you are doing)
As you can see, the expression “there is no free lunch” also applies to Usenet. By far, the easiest and most efficient way to gain good access to newsgroups is to pay for premium Usenet access.
However, the premium Usenet providers are also the best source – albeit only for a short period of time – for gaining free access to Usenet through their generous free trial accounts (method #1 above) .
Otherwise, you can get free Usenet access by using open news servers, either from directory listings (method #2 above) on the web or by finding them yourself using NNTP sniffing methods (method #3 above).
Try all the methods for yourself and see what works for you. In the end, we’d recommend that you do yourself a favor and invest as little as $9 a month for good and reliable Usenet access by signing up with one of our select recommended Usenet providers.